Despite being widely studied on both undergraduate and postgraduate courses the writing of Sylvia Plath has been relativ
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English Pages  Year 2001
Since her death in 1963 at the age of thirty, Sylvia Plath has become a strange icon---an object of intense speculation,
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Sylvia Plath in Context brings together an exciting combination of established and emerging thinkers from a range of dis
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Admirers of the work of Sylvia Plath will welcome this new paperback edition of a study, first published by The Athlone
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"This erudite critical study...breathes new life into Plath scholarship."—Publishers Weekly, starred reviewWhe
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From the moment it was first published in The New Yorker, this brilliant work of literary criticism aroused great attent
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This provocative book posits a new theory of women's writing characterized by what Claire Raymond calls 'the p
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Robert Lowell -- Elizabeth Bishop -- John Berryman -- Randall Jarrell -- Delmore Schwartz -- Sylvia Plath.
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Table of contents :
Table of Contents
List of Plates
Chapter 1: The Outline of the World Comes Clear
Packaging Sylvia Plath
Where is Sylvia Plath?
The Plath Archives
Chapter 2: Straddling the Atlantic
Your Puddle-Jumping Daughter
Plath Our Compatriot
Where Are We?
Alienation and Belonging in the Bee Poems
The Foreigner Within
Chapter 3: Plath's Environmentalism
The Complications of Masculinity
Do You Do No Harm?
Chapter 4: The Origins of the Bell Jar
Brontë, Woolf and Plath
Woolf and The Bell Jar
Rethinking Buddy Willard
The Misunderstood Mother and The Bell Jar Manuscripts
Sylvia Plath’s Villette
Chapter 5: A Way of Getting the Poems
The Critics on Hughes and Plath
The Reciprocity of Influence between Plath and Hughes
The Question of the Confessional
Before Birthday Letters
Textual Relationships and Poetic Conversations
Bleeding Through the Page
The Other Sylvia Plath
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LONDON AND NEW
LONDONLONDON LONDON LONDON LONDON
LONDON AND NEW YORK
FOR SHELLY, LORI, AND IMOGEN
First published 2001 by Pearson Education Limited Published 2014 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA
Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business Copyright © 2001, Taylor & Francis. The right of Tracy Brain to be identified as author of this Work has been asserted by her in accordance \vith the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Notices Knowledge and best practice in this field are constantly changing. As new research and experience broaden our understanding, changes in research methods, professional practices, or medical treatment may become necessary. Practitioners and researchers must always rely on their own experience and knowledge in evaluating and using any information, methods, compounds, or experiments described herein. In using such information or methods they should be mindful of their own safety and the safety of others, including parties for whom they have a professional responsibility. To the fullest extent of the law, neither the Publisher nor the authors, contributors, or editors, assume any liability for any injury and/or damage to persons or property as a matter of products liability, negligence or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions, or ideas contained in the material herein. ISBN 13: 978-0-582-32730-6 (pbk)
British Library Cataloguing-iN-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book can be obtained frol11 the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Brain, Tracy The Other Sylvia Plath/Tracy Brain p. enl. -- (Longt11an studies in t\ventieth-eentury literature) Includes bibliographical references (p.) and index. ISBN 0-582-32730-X (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Plath, Sylvia--Critieisnl and interpretation. 2. WOl11en and literature--United States--History--20th century. I. Title. II. Series. PS3566.L27 Z5827 2001 811' .54--dc21 Set by 7 in 11/13 Bembo
CHAPTER l:THEOUTLINE OFTHE WORLD COMES CLEAR
Packaging Sylvia Plath
Where is Sylvia Plath?
The Plath Archives
CHAPTER 2: STRADDLING TH E ATLANTIC
Your Puddle-Jumping Daughter
Plath Our Compatriot
Where Are We?
Alienation and Belonging in the Bee Poems
The Foreigner Within
CHAPTER 3: PLATH'S ENVIRONMENTALISM
The Complications of Masculinity
Do You Do No Harm?
CHAPTER 4:THE ORIGINS OF THE BELL JAR
Bronte, Woolf and Plath
CONTENTS The Legacy
Woolf and The Bell Jar
RethInkIng Buddy WIllard
The MIsunderstood Mother and The Bell Jar ManuscrIpts
SylvIa Plath's Villette
CHAPTER 5: A WAY OF GETTING TH E POEMS
The CritIcs on Hughes and Plath
The RecIprocIty of Influence between Plath and Hughes
The QuestIon of the ConfessIonal
Before BIrthday Letters
Textual Relationships and Poetic Conversations
Bleeding Through the Page
LIST OF PLATES
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ACIbster~ Nelv Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1949: 7. The underlining is Plath's. 147. Hey, Kingzett~ Chelnical Encyclopaedia, 1966: 8. 148. The Neu/¥orker, 30 June 1962,35; Silent Spring, 181. 137
149. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems, The Fearful - Kindness. Folder: Ariel PoenlS - Drafts, 'Fever 103 Draft 1. See p. 37 of the Faber edition of The BellJar. 150. Hey; Kingzett's Chcluical Encyclopaedia, 1966: 8. 151. Collected Poelns, 232. 152. Ibid., 231. 153. Many thanks to Stan Smith for bringing Hiroshirna A;10fl.£4nlour to my attention. 154. Alvarez, 'Sylvia Plath', 1963: 70. 155. Alain Resnais, Hiroshilna A10nA1Hour, 1959. 156. Perhaps vvhen she vvrote 'Lady Lazarus', Plath had in mind not just The Gospel According to St John, but also Sebastiano del Piolnbo's early sixteenth-century painting The Raising of Lazarus. This vvould have been in the National Gallery during Plath's frequent visits to London, before she moved there late in 1962 (it vvas the first painting the gallery ever acquired, in 1824). The Raising of Lazarus depicts \vhat looks like, to use a phrase froll1 'Lady Lazarus', a 'peanut-crunching crovvd'. One onlooker holds a cloth to his nose against the stench of the four-days-dead Lazarus (there is no reference to the slnell in the Bible); Lady Lazarus reassures us that 'The sour breath / Will vanish in a day'. The commands 'Peel off the napkin' and 'un"vrap me hand and foot' (Collected Pocnls, 244, 245) recall Lazarus 'bound hand and foot "vith graveclothes,, and Jesus' order to 'Loose him' Oohn, 11. 44), as vvell as the bandages dripping from Lazarus in Piombo's painting. 157. Stevenson, Bitter Falne, 1989: 269, 270. See also Kenner, 'Sincerity Kills', 1989: 68-9. 158. Alvarez. Intervie\ved on l1Jices & Visions: Sylvia Plath. Ne\vYork: Mystic Fire Video, 1988. 159. Sanlbrook, York Notes: Sylvia Plath: Selectedlf1orks, 1990: 14, 15. 160. Rose, The Haunting of Sylvia Plath, 1991: 134. 161. The Neu / }0rker, 30 June 1962, 42; Silent Spring, 175. 162. The NeuJ Yorker, 30 June 1962, 42-4; Silent Spring, 175. 163. Collected Poenls, 266. 164. SMITH. T/f,~bster's Neul Collegiate Diction.ary. Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1949: 445. The underlining is Plath's. 0
165. Collected POeftlS, 266. 166. Kristeva, Desire in Language, 1980: 136. While Kristeva's theories frequently open up nevv readings of Plath's \vork, Kristeva's o\vn reading of Plath reproduces that too-common gesture of reducing Plath's poems to causal prefigurements of her o\vn death. For Kristeva, Plath \vas 'another of those ,\vonlen disillusioned vvith meanings and \ivords, "vIlo took refuge in lights, rhythms and sounds: a refuge that already announces, for those "vho kno\v ho"v to read her, her silent departure fronllife' (Kristeva,'About Chinese Women', 1974: 157). 138
167. 168. 169. 170. 171. 172. 173. 174. 175. 176. 177. 178. 179. 180. 181. 182. 183. 184. 185. 186. 187. 188. 189.
190. 191. 192. 193. 194. 195. 196. 197. 198. 199. 200. 201. 202.
Plum\voocl, Fe 111inisl11 and the lvfasteryoj Nature, 1993: 9. Collected Poelus, 266. Ibid. Klein, 'A Study of Envy and Gratitude', 1986: 217, 220. Collected Poelus, 266. Klein, 'A Study of Envy and Gratitude', 1986: 221. Collected POenlS., 266. Collected Poe111s, 267. SMITH. Box: Plath - Metnorabilia, Notes. Folder: Notes, Poem Subjects. Stevenson, Bitter Fanze, 1989: 228. Rose, The Hauntingo..f Syl1)ia·Plath, 1991: 134. In this draft, Plath calls the poem 'The Bald Truth about: The Surgeon at 2.a.m.' LILLY Plath MSS. 1961, 29 Sept. 'The Surgeon at 2 a.m.' Orr, Plath Reads Plath, 1975: transcription from recording, mine. Collected Poelns, 171. Ibid., 170. Ibid., 171. Ibid., 170. Ibid., 171. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems, Daddy - Event. Folder: Ariel Poems, 'Elnl', Draft 2e. Collected Poen1s, 191. Markey, A Journey into th.e Red Eye, 1993: 12, 102. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems, Nick and the Candlestick - Sheep in Fog. Folder: Ariel Poems, 'Pheasant', Draft 1. See p. 84 of the Faber edition of The BellJar. Collected Poen1S, 191. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems, Nick and the Candlestick - Sheep in Fog. Folder: Ariel Poems, 'Pheasant' ,Draft 1. Collected POell1S, 191. Merchant, The Death oj Nature, 1989: xx, 186. Collected Poelns, 191. Perloff,'The T\;~lO A riels' ,1984: 12. La\vrence, Selected Poenls, 1950: 13. Collected PoelHs, 194. La\vrence, Selected Poerns, 1950: 13; Collected Poetl1s, 194. Hughes, Birthday Letters, 1998: 145. Collected Poe111s, 194. Gifford, Green llOices, 1995: 150. See Rose, The Haunting oj Sylvia Plath, 1991; Heaney, 'The Indefatigable Hoof-taps', 1988; and Steiner, 'Dying is an Art', 1970. Slicer, 'Tovvard an Ecofeminist Standpoint Theory', 1998: 49. 139
PLATH'S ENVIRON MENTALISM
of Sylvia Plath, 1982: 204, 233-4. The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 2000: 209, 288, 347-8, 391. Kazin, Bright Book of Life, 1971: 186, 184. Eagleton, 'Capitalism, Modernism and Postmodernism', 1985: 394. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems, Nick and the Candlestick - Sheep in Fog. Folder: Ariel Poems, 'Poppies in July' ,Draft 1. Collected PoenlS, 203.
204. The Journals
205. 206. 207.
208. 209. Ibid. 210. Ibid., 252. 211. Ibid., 232. 212. Ibid., 231. 213. The Nett! Yorker, 16 June 1962,35; Silent Spring, 23.
TH E ORIGINS OF THE BELL JAR
Bronte, Woolf and Plath
n the opening plenary session of a Virginia Woolf conference that I attended during the summer of 1996, Jane Marcus noted the interface bet\veen Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and suicide. In a tone some\vhere bet\veen self-kno\ving irony and complicity, Marcus jokingly referred to the 'dead mad-woman's poet society' to \vhich Woolf and Plath belong. It seemed a depressing way to begin such an event. I \vas further dismayed to find my own paper on Plath's textual and cultural debts to Woolf grouped in a session entitled 'Suicide'. It seemed odd that the conference should be organised in a \vay that contradicted its primary reason for existing: that is, to give serious attention to Virginia Woolf's writing. The 'Suicide' session's first speaker began his talk on Woolf by quoting from 'Lady Lazarus':' "Dying is an art"'. There is a common assumption - even among scholars - that the most important connection between Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath is the last thing that they ever did. I \vant to reveal the importance of the textual, psychoanalytic and even cultural links between Plath's writing and Woolf's, and bet\veen the \vriting of these two t\ventieth-century writers and their nineteenth-century literary mother, Charlotte Bronte. By evaluating the textual relationships betvveen the \vork of these three \vriters, \ve can read them as literary mothers and daughters - as progenitors and inheritors. Most importantly, by studying Plath's typescripts, and her heavily underlined and annotated copy of Villette, \ve can look afresh at the position of the mother and of the character of Buddy Willard in The Bell Jar. Bronte's ninetee1?-th-century text can be read as a template for Plath's novel. Looking at Villette and The Bell Jar together enriches our understanding of both books.
THE ORIGINS OF THE BELL JAR
A Comparison Virginia Woolf famously \vrote in A ROOttl of OneSOtVl1, '\ve think back through our mothers if v'le are \vomen. It is useless to go to the great men \vriters for help'.1 If we ask where Sylvia Plath \vent 'for help', vve find that the answer, partly, is Woolf herself. Woolf's vvriting haunts Plath's. Indeed, there is a strong presence ofWoolf's texts in Plath's o\vn. Several critics have observed that Plath and Woolf suffered from mental illness 2 and committed suicide, 3 or seen them both as selfdramatising \vriters. 4 Writing as though Plath vvere Woolf's precursor, Elizabeth Hardvvick suggests that some ofWoolf's last journal entries 'have in them the glittering contempt of a Sylvia Plath poem'. Hardv'lick concludes that, in the end, Woolf redeems herself by expressing 'apology, gratitude, and depression's before her suicide; this is opposed to Plath's lack of repentance. Critics repeatedly cite Plath's boast that the Cambridge boys 'think of me as a second Virginia Woolf' ,6 or her assertion that 'Virginia Woolf helps. Her novels make mine possible', 7 or her question and ansvver 'What is my voice? Woolfish, alas, but tough' .8 Plath's journals and letters are crammed \vith lists of the Woolf novels she systematically buys and reads. 9 Only a handful of critics have examined Woolf's textual imprint on Plath in any detail. Sandra Gilbert focuses on Plath's radio play Three l¥otnen,10 and its inheritance of narrative and stylistic patterns from Plath's 'heavily underlined'11 copy of The liVaves. Steven Aexelrod tells us that Plath more often discusses 'male vvriters than female', and that of the 135 books Plath kept in England, only '16 \:vere by women - fully half of them by ... Virginia Woolf' . 12 Axelrod engages in a sustained study of Woolf's legacy to Plath. He argues that Plath's choices of character names are indebted to Woolf. 13 More convincingly, he establishes lvirs Dallotva}' as The BellJar's 'parent text' .14 Plath herself offers us a blueprint for establishing Woolf's textual
imprint on her vvriting. In her 1962 radio piece 'A Comparison', Plath explicitly invites us to liken her \vriting to Woolf's. The piece begins, 'Ho\v I envy the novelist!', 15 and Woolf herself appears to be the object of the envy. 'A Comparison' continues \'lith vvhat seems to be a parody of Orlando's first sentence, copying the uncertainty of gender conveyed in Woolf's frenetic supplements and qualifications. Woolf's 'He - for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it'16 resonates in Plath's 'I imagine him - better 142
say her, for it is the "vomen I look to for a parallel'. The project of A Rool1tqf One's OtPll is passed to Plath's narrator: to 'look to' the literary mother. With the phrase 'I imagine her, then, pruning a rosebush \vith a large pair of shears' ,17 Plath duplicates Woolf's exercise in gendered absurdity, affectionately mocking Orlando's act of 'slicing at the head of a Moor' .18 The gardening reference may be an allusion to Vita SackvilleWest, \\Tho inspired Orlando. Plath's narrator evokes an amusingly caricatured 'feminine' activity that also echoes Orlando's 'masculine' game of violence. Moreover, to prune a rose \vith shears would destroy the flo\ver. Using a Woolfian style, the narrator of ' A Comparison' says of her predecessor: 'Her business is Time, the \\Tay it shoots for\vard, shunts back, blooms, decays and double exposes itself. Her business is people in time' .19 The pronoun 'Her' could refer to Woolf herself, \vhile the references to time evoke Woolf's texts. There is the bulk of 10 the Lighthouse covering one day as opposed to the fe\v pages through \vhich decades pass. In 1\/1rs DaUOliJay, Clarissa and Septimus occupy the same -moment indifferent \vays. Repeatedly in the novel, different characters reflect upon the same thing at the same instant from very dissimilar places, yet there is still a 'gradual dra\ving together of everything' .20 This aspect ofWoolf's writing made a strong impression on Plath \vhen she \vas very young. As Plath put it in an unpublished high school essay on lVIrs DaUotva}','you jump about from one person's disconnected train of thought to another's. Imagine that you could peer into the brain of any passer-by at will' .21 'She can take a century ifshe likes, a generation, a \vhole summer', 22 says the narrator of'A Comparison'. Here, she seems to speak at once of Woolf's \vriting, Woolf's games \vith time, and Orlando's romps through centuries. This allusion to Orlando's length and time frame returns us to the Woolfian question of genre implied in the title of'A Comparison'. As opposed to the novelist, Plath's narrator quips \vith slangy talkiness that the poet 'can take about a minute'23 \vith her necessarily economic form. This explains the emphatic beginning of 'A Comparison', 'Ho\v I envy the novelist!' The narrator of A RODIn of OneJs OU1rl famously \vonders \vhat genre "vould best express 'the poetry in' "vomen. She goes on to plead that'\vomen's books should be shorter, more concentrated, than those of men, and framed so that they do not need long hours of steady and uninterrupted \vork' .24 The narrator of 'A Comparison' , as if directly responding to this plea, implies that poems meet these criteria, but at a price: 'If a poem is concentrated, ... then a novel ... can touch and encompass a great deal in its travels'. While the 143
THE ORIGINS OF THE BELL JAR
narrator of 'A Comparison' has 'never put a toothbrush in a poem', 25 the narrator of A Roonl of One's Otvn implores the "voman \vriter to explore the 'accumulation of unrecorded life', the ordinary \vorld of 'gloves and shoes and stuffs'. In A Rooln of One's Otvn, Woolf puts scare quotes around the "vord'novel' to 'mark ... the \vord's inadequacy'.26 'A Comparison' suggests that the genre is relative and provisional. Though poems and novels alike require patterns, Plath's narrator teases that the novel does not 'insist so much'.27 In other \vords, the novel is ~ more expansive and mobile form. All of these tentative definitions and hypotheses about genre are nonetheless inconclusive. What both Plath and Woolf point up is the creative deadliness of rigid prescriptions, and the necessity for development. While I cannot think of a poem in which Plath literally puts a toothbrush, she does put in the grease of roasting lamb in 'Mary's Song', a Victorian nightdress in 'Morning Song', and sweat-sodden sheets in 'Fever 103°'. The BellJar can be said to explore the \vorld of' gloves and shoes and stuff', and show ho\v serious, but also ho\v absurd, a \vorld this can be. Yet \vith its highly condensed, figurative language, The Bell Jar is in many \vays as 'concentrated' as any poem. Plath's poems and prose forge ne\v patterns, as Woolf's did before her. They make us think freshly about \vhat subject matter and forms can be the province of literature. We kno\v of the anger that the narrator of A RODIn of One's Otvn hurls at her o\vn predecessor, Charlotte Bronte. Bronte's crime is to \vrite in \vays that are very like Woolf's own text: \vith 'indignation', \vith the' continuity' 'disturbed' , with scarcely a hint of anything that could be described as 'whole and entire' .28 Coming upon the literary mother one might expect the narrator of A Roont of One's Otvn to \velcome, she instead rejects her. In turn, Plath mimics Woolf's disaffection \vith Bronte. Plath admits of a daughter-like wish to outdo the mother and 'be stronger'29 than Woolf, both as a \vriter and by having children. Plath's adulation melts in the face of omission: 'That is \vhat one misses in Woolf. Her potatoes and sausage. What is her love, her childless life, like, that she misses it, except in Mrs. Ramsey and Clarissa Dallo\vay?'30 But \ve cannot freeze Plath here any more than \ve can hold Woolf at that moment of rage against Bronte's anger. Plath's momentary rejection ofWoolf does not cancel her previous instances of enthusiasm and respect any more than a daughter's furious hatred of her mother erases her love. What matters most is the fact that Plath's "vriting is the better for Woolf's examinations of mothers, literary and othef\vise.
The Legacy Plath and Woolf shared a strong ambivalence about the effects of marriage on a woman's potential creativity. Plath \vonders 'if the sensuous haze of marriage "vill kill the desire to "vrite' ,31 while Woolf confesses that 'the extreme safeness and sobriety of young couples does apall [sic] me'. The t"vo "vriters were as dubious about babies as they "vere about husbands. At one moment, Woolf scornfully refers to a 'barren "vife
across the passage'. At another, she \vrites: 'To be 29 and unmarried - to be a failure - childless - insane too, no writer'. 32 Plath's vacillation mirrors Woolf's. In the summer of 1957 Plath refers to the 'horror ... of being pregnant'. 33 T\vo years later she records the opposite extremity of feeling. Anxious that she has not conceived "vithin the first fe\v months of trying to become pregnant, she writes: 'If I could not have children ... I \vauld be dead. Dead to my "vaman's body ... My "vriting a hollo"v and failing substitute for real life' .34 Plath's 1956 story 'The Wishing Box' seems to be a direct revision of Woolf's story 'The Legacy'. Both plots concern the repressive effects of marriage and husbands on the wife's creativity. 'The Legacy' appeared in A Haunted House and Other Short Stories, a copy of "vhich Plath o\vned. 35 In 'The Wishing Box', Plath cues us by approximating the name ofWoolf's heroine: Agnes is a partial anagram ofWoolf's Angela. 'The Wishing Box' is another of those pieces of Plath's \vriting that even the most accomplished of critics cannot resist reducing to the merely personal. Jacqueline Rose asserts that her 'focus is on the \vriting' and she is 'never claiming to speak about the life' of Sylvia Plath. Nonetheless, Rose argues that 'The Wishing Box' 'can be read as an allegory for the poetic rivalry between Plath and Hughes'. Rose says of Agnes, 'She lacks imagination', 36 but this is to take the fictional character's "vord for it. If we read the story as a critique of marriage, instead of biographically, it becomes clear that Plath \vishes to examine the sexual and social forces vvhich "vrongly convince Agnes that she has no imagination (or that any imagination she may possess is illegitimate). Agnes has nothing to do but domestic chores, and the result is deadly. Plath's story, like the precursor by Woolf, ends in the "vife's suicide, and for similar reasons. In Woolf's piece,creativity is signalled by Angela's diary; in Plath's, by Agnes's dreams, or the lack of them. Angela refuses to let her husband see her diary, telling him' "After I'm dead - perhaps" '37 (\vhich is indeed when he does see it). Plath's story is structured to indict marriage. Agnes's literal and metaphoric loss of her ability to 145
TH E ORIGINS OF THE BELLJAR
dream coincides with her '\vedding night only three months before' .38 Agnes vie\vs the feminine,'fragmentary'39 dreams that occur in the' "back of [her] head'" as illegitimate \vhen compared to Harold's masculine, linear' "movie-screen'" dreams on the' "front of [his] eyelids'" .40 We are told that Angela had a 'passion for little boxes'. 41 Boxes are obviously important in Plath's story too. Plath's title refers to the \vishing boxes about vvhich Agnes dreams as a child. These 'gre\v on trees' and had handles you turned 'while \vhispering your \vish'. 42 Agnes's vvishing box, like Angela's jevvellery boxes, also conjures that room of one's own. In both stories, the room has either shrunk to enclose insignificant trinkets, or come to represent the deadliness of donlestic space: the room not as a place for freedom and thought, but as a prison (the many and various boxes of Plath's bee poems take on a similar meaning). In fact, Agnes's room, the' things surrounding her', leave her feeling 'choked, smothered by these objects vvhose bulky pragmatic existence' threaten 'her o\vn ephemeral being'.43 The \vishing box is also the television that represents Agnes's humiliating lack of economic power \vithin marriage. Only 'by dint of much cajolery'44 does she persuade her husband to buy it. Television fails to compensate for Agnes's inability to dream, and is itself implicated as dangerous to the imagination. Television comes to signify ho\v little there is for the exclusively domestic vvife to do. Before television, Agnes turns \vith ironic desperation to The JOi' of Cooking and the Sears Roebuck Catalogue, tvvo icons ofAmerican house\vifery. A decade later, Margaret At\vood \vould use one of these icons as a key reference for her novel The Edible liVo,nan (published in 1969, but \vritten in 1965). At\vood prefaces The Edible T%lnan vvith a recipe for puff pastry from The Joy of Cooking. 'The surface on vvhich you \vork (preferably marble), the tools, the ingredients and your fingers should be chilled throughout the operation ... ' The idea is that the \VOnlan should become an implement to achieve domestic perfection: mindless, utilitarian, and part of the food itself. No different from illstruments and flour, even her body should be chilled. The heroine of The Edible U101"nan becomes anorexic at the prospect of losing her imagination and freedom through her impending marriage. In other \vords, The Edible T4101nan is about a \voman vvho is confronted \vith a future like Agnes's. Considering that The Edible ~~l/Olnan vvas \vritten only a decade after 'The Wishing Box', opportunities for the later heroine have not improved overvvhehningly. As Atvvood herself puts it in her Introduction to the novel, Marian's choices are 'a career going novvhere, or marriage as an exit fronl it' .45 146
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Plath's third person story privileges Agnes's point ofvie\v, for the narrator keeps close to vvhatAgnes kno\¥s and feels. By contrast, Woolf's narrator follo\vs the thoughts ofAngela's husband as he tries to understand the life he did not attempt to decipher \vhile she was alive. Angela is patronisingly remembered by her politician husband as \vanting'to do something - she had blushed so prettily ... to help others' .46 The dead lover \vhom Angela commits suicide to join is an active socialist. Seen in this light, Angela's death cannot be read as a simple romantic gesture, but must also be interpreted as a protest against her failure to do anything of serious import \vhile alive. Like Angela's, Agnes's death is also as much an act of subversion as it is capitulation. Her husband finds her 'dressed in her favourite princessstyle emerald taffeta eveninggo\vn, pale and lovely as a blo\vn lily', and \ve are told that she looks as if'she \vere, at last, waltzing with the dark, red-caped prince of her early dreams' .47 Agnes composes herself into a death pose of magazine femininity that both mocks and complies "\vith the ideals of her time. What Agnes loses through marriage might be described as a Kristevian semiotic, or feminine unconscious and imagination \vhose removal kills her. This is made most literal by Agnes's insomnia. She rejoins the fantasy prince "\vhom she associates \vith the pre-marriage girlhood in which she could still think creatively and dream. Notwithstanding, this prince is a conventional figure of socially desirable masculinity. Through suicide, Agnes escapes the nightmare room and its horrifying domestic implements of'smug, autonomous tables and chairs'. 48 Contrary to those conventional views of Plath's o"\vn supposed death drive, 'The Wishing Box' argues that death is no victory.
Woolf and The Bell Jar Steven Axelrod concludes that because Plath never mentioned A R00111 oj One's OUIH and did not annotate her copy she' chose to ignore it'. Axelrod argues that Woolf's vision of sexual politics and \vomen's oppression threatened Plath's own hopes for her marriage. 49 He suspects that Plath did not \vant to measure her work against Woolf's prescription for 'incandescent', non-angry \vriting,50 and that A Roanl if One} Ount positioned Woolf as a (literary) mother \vho exhibited 'a need to control and to \vithhold, a "\vish to reprove, and a reluctance to grant autonomy'. 51 These are important points. But they do not 147
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acknowledge the fluctuating positions of Woolf's theories on how "vomen should write. Nor do they credit Plath vvith the ability to recognise those moments where Woolf loses' control' .We might think of such moments as antidotes to the mother's supposed bossiness: those reassuring displays of anger and discontinuity in Woolf's ovvn vvriting, particularly in A Roortl of One's Own itself. A Roon! of One's Own is actually an unrepressed presence in Plath's work. Woolf writes: 'Poetry ought to have a mother as well as a father. The Fascist poem ... will be a horrid little abortion such as one sees in a glass jar in the museum of some county tovvn'. 52 The Bell Jar examines the problem of the poet vvho can find no serious female role models, of the young "voman writer "vho finds the shift from silent muse to speaking subject difficult. Like the narrator of A RootH of One's OUJtl, Esther lacks examples of "vomen who successfully combine artistic achievement with vvifehood and motherhood. Dodo Con"vay, \vhose education at Bernard has not been of tnuch use in her life's work of producing seven children, prompts Esther to think, 'I had nothing to look for\vard to'. 53 Such a sentiment echoes A Roort1 of One's Otvn, "vhose narrator remarks, 'bearing thirteen children - no human being could stand it'. 54 Chapter Fifteen of The Bell Jar opens its second section \vith Esther's declaration, 'I have my o"vn room again'. Esther is talking here about her transfer from the city hospital to the private one that Philomena Guinea pays for, and alluding to differences in comfort and luxury between the t\VO institutions. At the same time, she evokes the relative freedom of mind that the more enlightened treatment in the private hospital affords her, a freedom that is far from perfect or ideal, but nonetheless is a great improvement on the monstrous inhumanity of the city hospital. It is in the private hospital, ensconced in her' own room', that Esther begins to improve, ho\vever costly that improvement may be. A Roorn of One's Own must also be one of Plath's many sources for the analogy between depression and a 'bell jar' ,55 and for the image of 'big glass bottles full of babies' .56 Plath uses Woolf's equation bet"veen deformed poems and dead foetuses in her 1960 poem 'Stillborn', replicating Woolf's 'Such monsters never live long'57 with her own 'These poems do not liv~'.58 Woolf asks, '"vhat food do we feed "vomen as artists upon?'59 We might see the eponymous vegetables of Plath's 1959 poem 'Mushrooms' as women, a sort of food who themselves 'Diet on \vater, / On crumbs of shadow, / Bland-mannered, asking / Little or nothing' .60 Their menu recalls the impoverishment of the dry biscuits and 'prunes and custard'61 fed to the women at Fernham. It also duplicates their quiet 148
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resistance and slo"\v-gaining strength. At times, Esther Greenwood appears to fantasise herself as one ofVirginia Woolf's heroines, aligning herself \vith Woolf's thought, or attempting to duplicate it. When Esther says of physics, 'What I couldn't stand \-vas this shrinking everything into letters and numbers',62 she may also be referring to the male science student who sits opposite the narrator of A R00111 of One's OUJl1 in the British Museum. His 'neatest abstracts, headed often with an A or a B or a C' contrast \vith the narrator's o\vn'vvildest scribble of contradictory jottings'. 63 In her recoil from physics, Esther may also be rejecting the stance of Mr Ramsey, 'stuck at Q'64 and struggling to reach R throughout To the Lighthouse. Plath takes Woolf's image of abbreviation and linear thinking and, like her predecessor, uses it to speculate on masculine and feminine ways of creating. Both vvriters consider the policing of the feminine by the masculine,65 as \ve see in The Bell jar's reconceptualisation of Mrs Dallotvay. Elizabeth Abel observes that repeated interruptions by men rob Clarissa of any opportunity to sustain a relationship \vith a woman: 66 'the jealous male attempting to rupture the exclusive female bond' .67 The dash signalling Peter's brutal interruption of Sally's kiss68 is much cited. 69 So too is the manner by which Peter duplicates the gesture \vith his unexpected visit during what seems to be Clarissa's postclimactic pleasure70 in mending a favourite dress. 71 However unlived Clarissa's relationships vvith \vomen may be, the reveries in which she contains them are of great importance to her. The Bell jar refigures Mrs DallouJay's examination of \vhat Elizabeth Abel describes as the 'turn from mother to father' that is produced by '[m]asculine intervention, not penis envy' .72 Sally's counterpart is Joan Gilling, vvho functions as Esther's alter ego and potential lesbian lover. Though Joan is usually taken for granted by critics and readers as a 'real' character, she can be seen as a construct of Esther's imagination. Indeed, \ve are cued by Esther herself that 'Sometimes I wondered if I had made Joan up'. 73 One of four quarterly reports that Plath wrote on The Bell jar for the Eugene E Saxton Memorial Trust (from \vhom she received a Saxton Fellowship of $2,080) refers to Esther's 'sister-double relationship \vith Joan'. 74 Joan embodies Esther's sexual and social transgressions. As a 'physics major' and 'hockey champion' \vho is 'big as a horse'75 Joan resists feminine stereotype. In a series of coincidences, she embraces Buddy Willard's mother where Esther rejects her,76 receives the '''same'''77 epistolary marriage proposal from Buddy as Esther, and is incarcerated with Esther in the mental institution. These correspondences are so numerous, ludicrous, and contrived, that Plath 149
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can only have meant the reader - and Esther - to regard them as symbolic, and never literal. Joan is the antithesis of the 1950s femininity symbolised by Doreen, "vhose compliance Esther fears she will catch and 'never get rid of' if she allo"vs Doreen to enter her 'room'.78 Glanlorous girls, like children, make Esther 'sick' ,79 but she kno"vs this response contravenes her culture's ideology of sanctified "vomanhood and the American family. As Pat Macpherson argues,80 Esther learns from the'-Rosenberg execution of the terrible sanctions against social misconduct and gender delinquency. The Rosenberg execution certainly does not function, as Alfred Kazin flippantly argues, 'just to relnind you "vhat year it vvas \vhen "Esther Green\vood" got to Nevv York'.81 The sequence of interruptions in Esther's last scenes \vith Joan is "vorth follo\ving. When Joan makes a pass at Esther, Esther needs no male policing to protect her from the seductiveness of female transgression. She tells Joan herself, 'You make me puke' .82 Esther here is 'properly' sick. That is to say, her illness - or disgust at Joan's sexual advance - is "vhat her culture asks of her; in the terms of 1950s America, sickness, "vhen brought on by potential homosexuality, is health. When Esther next sees Joan, Joan asks, ' "You'll come visit me" ,, and Esther does not voice her answer of' "Not likely" '.83 Esther leaves Joan and loses her virginity to If\vin, but visits Joan again immediately after the sexual experience, turning to Joan for help because she is haemorrhaging. 84 It is after "vitnessing the blood evidence of Esther's loss of virginity to a man that Joan commits suicide. Esther' cures' herself of her incipient sexual misbehaviour by murdering the desire that Clarissa Dallo"\vay never gives up. Unlike Clarissa, Esther herself curtails her nleetings - and relationships - "vith \vomen. No Peter-like character is needed in The BellJar to administer the lay\! of the father. Where Esther moves on at the expense of killing a part of herself, Clarissa is trapped in regression. Clarissa's lesbianism can only be experienced through memory and fantasy. Where Clarissa's access to her mother and sister has been removed by their deaths and their virtual erasure from the narrative,85 Esther is estranged from her very present mother by the mother-fearing culture in \vhich she lives. Abel's skilful account of ~A1.rs Dallofva}' as a consideration of 'a lost pre-Oedipal "vorld and the costs of its relinquishment'86 again helps. The BellJar, as "ve "vill see, is more concerned "vith critiquing the forces that sever the daughter from the mother than "vith endorsing any resulting breach.
RETHINKING BUDDY WILLARD
Rethinking Buddy Willard In The Bell Jar, male and female characters alike are subject to penalties vvhen they do not comply vvith accepted gender and social codes. Like much of Plath's \vork, The BeUJar has often been regarded as unsympathetic to men, particularly in its portrayal of Buddy Willard,. Again, biographical readings have tended to cloud critical judgement. Buddy Willard has been seen as Plath's resentful version of Dick Norton,87 but The BellJar, like 'Paralytic' , is actually sympathetic to the pressures upon men and masculinity, Buddy Willard included. In the fashion of a perfect 1950s man, Buddy is 'very proud of his perfect health'. Also in keeping vvith popular thought, he tells Esther that her sinus troubles are 'psychosomatic' .88 Buddy's illness is not simply an ironic visitation of just revenge about \vhich Esther can be smug. It is also a genuine "examination of vvhat happened to such a man \yhen he could no longer meet the requirements of virile masculinity. Buddy must take a Victorian-termed 'rest cure'89 for his TB, and is left as feminised as any nineteenth-century heroine \vith some unnamable ailment. The Bell Jar's early typescripts contain more details about Buddy's sickness and loss of masculinity than the published version of the novel. Buddy confesses that 'medical students vvith T.B. aren't really eligible'90 for the army. His predicament is similar to Esther's in this discarded passage. Both characters are 'sick', and \vait in fear and horror to be decried and punished for being so. Repeatedly, Esther mentions things that make her 'sick', among them 'being electrocuted' and 'Girls like that' .Yet she kno\vs she must hide such deviance, for' even \vhen they surprised me or made rne sick I never let on'. 91 Pat Macpherson has shovvn that at the time of The Bell Jar communism vvas equated vvith sickness and spoken of like a cancerous malignancy eating America alive. 92 In this context, Buddy's sickness, like Esther's, is mortifying and dangerous: a badge of mental, national and social degeneration. Esther speaks ofTB as people spoke of communism: 'I edged back ... it seemed to me an extremely sinister disease, the way it \vent on so invisibly' .93 This in turn resembles the way others regard Esther's o\vn breakdovvn. Sickness is not merely physical. Buddy's father cannot 'stand the sight of sickness and especially his ovvn son's sickness, because he thought all sickness \vas sickness of the will' .94 As a counterpart to the dangers Esther experiences of appearing too masculine, Buddy's sickness leads him to align himself too closely vvith femininity and \veakness. Even Buddy's body betrays and humiliates him, trans151
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gressing gender codes by plumping out like a pregnant vvoman's. This foreshadovvs the changes to Esther's own body under the influence of her insulin treatments. Because Esther's treatment and cure depend upon the restoration of her femininity, and her acceptance of it, the side effect of the insulin is not just incidental. The insulin forces her 'skinny as a boy'95 body, and attitudes, into \vomanly curves. An early typescript of The Bell Jar reveals that Buddy's feminisation \vas even more exaggerated in Plath's initial conception of the novel. Here, Buddy's laugh is not just 'plump' ,96 as in the published novel, but also has 'a strange, fruity richness' .97 Buddy is not merely 'convex', vvith a 'pot belly' and 'cheeks ... round and ruddy as marzipan fruit'.98 He is given the further indignity of 'the contours of a double chin' .99 It is not simply the femininity of this changed body that shames Buddy, but also the way that the rhetoric which describes this body mimicks the "vay men talk of women, or women talk of babies: as edible, delicious, svveet as candy. One year after writing and then cutting these allusions to Buddy's compromised masculinity, Plath drafted her April 1962 poem 'Among the Narcissi' on the opposite side of the page. 'Among the Narcissi' is about an elderly man with cancer. The narrator vvatches him bend, vveakened by age and illness, among his flowers. The poem's tone is markedly different from the earlier text. While The Bell Jar's \vorld is scornful of any loss of male rigour, the narrator of,Among the Narcissi' speaks tenderly and respectfully of the \vithered man. The poem's speaker occupies an entirely different culture from the novel's. Her membership of the decade that follows Esther's affords her a tolerance and compassion that the earlier text cannot allovv its heroine. Other early typescripts of The Bell Jar reveal that Plath diminished her heroine's violence on her vvay to the novel's final version, especially Esther's anger to\vards Buddy. Plath cuts the line, 'I felt like kicking him in the stomach'. 100 This discarded sentence is not merely a manner of speech. If vve recall the fact that Buddy's nevvly plump body is feminised, even pregnant looking, Esther's wish to kick him in the stomach can also be seen as a vvish to hit at maternity itself, and at the babies she tells us throughout the book that she hates.
THE MISUNDERSTOOD MOTHER AND THE BELL JAR MANUSCRIPTS
The Misunderstood Mother and The Bell Jar Manuscripts Aurelia Plath described the 'accusation' that she "vas 'the model for Esther Greenwood's cold, aphorism-spouting, cut-and~dried mother' as 'unjust', but the 'accusation' to \vhich Mrs Plath refers need not be interpreted as Mrs Plath did: as 'horrible' .101 Mrs Green\vood is not necessarily 'a cold, unsympathetic mother' \vho '"vould provide the
conflict necessary to win sympathy for the heroine' .102 In fact, Mrs Green"vood is a more admirable and likeable character than Mrs Plath, and most critics, have seen. As Plath herselfsaid of Mrs Greenwood in an unpublished letter to James Michie, a Heinemann editor: 'She is a dutiful, hard-\vorking woman whose beastly daughter is ungrateful to her' .103 The text repeatedly signals that \ve should not s\vallo\v uncritically Esther's angry perceptions of her mother. These perceptions often prove inaccurate. Esther herself admits to 'surprise' , for instance, "vhen her mother agrees to get her out of the terrible mental institution. 104 Earlier typescripts of The Bell Jar demonstrate Plath's intention that her readers should distrust her narrator, and learn little about \vhat happens to Esther after her breakdo\vn. An early draft of Chapter One's last page appears on the reverse side of an outline of the novel. Plath crosses out the final paragraph by hand, deciding against including it in the book. The cut passage reads: 'By nineteen I was an expert at finding out other people's life stories on a bus or in a doctor's office, anyvvhere at all. I never told anybody my life story, though, or if I did, I made up a \vhopper.'105 This is a dramatic admission by Esther of her habit of lying, and her talent for doing so. Its exclusion from the book does not mean that Plath decided to make her heroine an honest paragon. As a "vriter, Plath may have wanted Esther's unreliability to be less crudely signposted, to be shown more than told. Another cut passage, \vritten by hand on a page from an early typescript, gives us a similar glimpse into Esther's future. In it, she struggles to recall the name and location of a restaurant. 'I thought for a long time it "vas called The Seven Steps, but then \vhen I \vent to look it up in a N e\v York Phonebook a year or t"vo later I couldn't find it; & no New Yorker I knew has ever heard of it' . 106 We can read this omitted sentence in at least two \vays. First, that Esther cannot remember something perfectly (a plausible character trait). Second, that the restaurant never existed at all, but was a figment of Esther's imagination, and she entirely fantasised it. Either way, these deleted passages indicate Plath's conception of her narrator as less than wholly reliable. Another page from an early 153
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typescript of the book refers to a bullfight Esther attends years later and finds barbaric. 107 Plath crossed out the lines about the bull fight, presunlably vvishing to minimise \vhat the reader learns of Esther's later life, and also, quite possibly, to reduce the reader's exposure to Esther's good judgement and reliability. One of the fevv 'facts' that \ve are allo\ved to knovv of Esther's future in the final draft is that she has a baby. This is a significant development given Esther's admission that "Children made me sick'108 (the past tense of,made' is important here, for it suggests that, beyond the events of the novel, this is no longer Esther's stance). We learn also that Esther keeps the gifts given to her by Ladies Day. 109 These gifts are a badge of Esther's recovery and irony. They are indicative of the sense of humour afforded her by the time that has passed bet\veen her story and its telling. The fact of Esther's ovvn later motherhood leaves room for the reader to imagine that, \vith hindsight, Esther might sympathise \vith \vhat Mrs Greenwood has endured. On 29 October 1961, Plath drafted her poem 'The Babysitters'. For paper, she used pages from an earlier typescript of The Bell Jar. Again, these typescript pages contain passages and lines that Plath cut from the final draft of the book. Esther explains her selection of the man to \vhom she decides to lose her virginity. 'I also needed somebody quite experienced to make up for my lack of it, and Irvvin's ladies reassured me on this head. Then, sincetuy tnother had hinted of the thralldonl a UlOtnal1 undergoes in the hands of herfirst lover, to be on the safe side, I \vanted somebody I didn't knovv.' (The-italicised clause is crossed out in the earlier typescript, vvhile the \vords in the plain print are retained betvveen Plath's typescript and the final published version. 110) Plath chooses to excise a passage that hints of intimacy bet\veen Esther and her mother. What Plath expunges is a reference to an earlier moment vvhere the mother and daughter \vere close enough to talk about sex, hovvever coyly. Though Esther tries to disguise this incriminating evidence of intimacy \vith mocking sarcasm, she nonetheless reveals her former preparedness to speak about such matters \vith her mother. It is an admission of closeness that Plath judges the novel, and her disengaged, angry heroine, cannot afford to retain and admit. What Plath leaves in the novel is Esther's amusing reference to 'In Defence of Chastity' , a Reader's Digest article that her mother mails to her, but does not discuss vvith her directly. 111 Without the deleted passage, it is harder to appreciate the irony \vhereby Esther takes her mother's advice seriously, and acts on it in a \vay Mrs Green\vood could never have predicted. 154
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The culture \vhich sanctifies the mother in the home, equivalent to the angel in the house that Woolf had to kill in 'Professions for Women',112 also blames the mother for the so-called 'defects' of its children. The BellJar is not complicit \vith the popular psychoanalysis that accounts for Esther's breakdo"\vn by implying her mother had not properly 'toilet trained' her. The text, unlike Doctor Nolan, does not smile approvingly \vhen Esther says of her nl0ther, ' "I hate her'" .113 Plath disorientates the reader by beginning Chapter Fifteen "\vith \vhat at first appears to be a disembodied voice. This voice represents the culture of mother blaming. "'Ofcourse his mother killed him'" ,114 a blind date tells Esther. A fe"\v paragraphs later we discover that he is discussing a play - and one in \vhich the mother's murder of her son could be seen as an act of love and mercy. The false 'logic' of the phrase 'of course' only emphasises the spuriousness of the all-too-familiar assumption that 'the mother did it'. Plath took notes on Jung, writing: 'We praise the "sanctity of motherhood", yet "\vould never dream of holding it responsible for all the human monsters, the homicidal maniacs,dangerous lunatics, epileptics, idiots & cripples of every description "\vho are born everyday' .115 These notes are not dated, and there is no indication of \vhether Plath took them for a course at school or university, or simply privately, for herself. Later, when she comes to write The Bell Jar, Plath appears to argue \vith this earlier vie\v, be it her o"\vn, or her summation of what she thought Jung \vas saying.A. S. Byatt rightly predicted of Letters Hotne, 'I fear Mrs Plath's gallantry \vill meet "\vith less sympathy than it should. It is easy and customary to scapegoat "the Mother" for many inner horrors', 116 and indeed, Mrs Green"\vood's 'gallantry' has unfairly met "\vith the very fate (the lack of ,sympathy') that Byatt feared for Mrs Plath. Any careful reading of The BellJar, ho"\vever, must recognise that the novel exposes, rather than advocates, the vie"\v that 'it's the mother's fault'.
Sylvia Plath's Villette To find The Bell Jar's antecedents, \ve need to look further back than Virginia Woolf's \vork. If the numerous underlined and annotated passages of Plath's o"\vn copy of Villette are anything to go by, 117 Bronte's novel is yet another template for Plath's "\vork and concerns. Plath's underlining and notes in Villette mark out the territory of The Bell Jar, its questions, and the matrix of its characters. It may at first seem 155
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strange to juxtapose Bronte's story of an English Victorian girl \vith Plath's of a 1950s American college student, but many aspects of Villette equally characterise The Bell jar. The t\vo novels are narrated through a reflective retrospective perspective. In both books, the reader is given fe\v significant facts about the years that follow the main events of the story. Villette and The Bell jar both end ambiguously. We have already observed The Bell jar's complex position on mothers, and its relationship to Woolf's texts. By looking at The Belljar's considered relationship to Villette, we can move beyond the vie\v that Plath's novel is nothing more than her 'usual facile use of every bit of her experience'118 (to use Alfred Kazin's phrase), or 'a horrific autobiographical novel'119 (to use Elisabeth Bronfen's). Like Bronte's, the first time Plath's heroine ever names herself in the book, she does so in the context of a lie. To Lucy's fervent and fanciful 'I, Lucy Sno\ve, plead guiltless of that curse, an overheated and discursive imagination'12o (Lucy is characterised by exactly this sort of imagination), Massachusetts-born Esther Green\vood gives us ' "My name's Elly Higginbottom ... I come from Chicago" '.121 Artistic temperament also establishes Lucy Snowe as Esther Greenwood's precursor. Plath underlines Lucy's confession, 'I never had a head for science, but an ignorant, blind, fond instinct inclined me to art'. 122 (Next to this Plath \vrites in the margin, 'moi?') Plath gives Esther the same antipathy towards science. Esther describes physics as a 'death' that made her 'sick',123 and believes chemistry will be '\vorse' .124 Lucy tries 'pretty hard'125 to learn German but finds it 'difficult of mastery',126 as if she has 'drunk brine to quench thirst'. 127 Esther also attempts German, despite the fact that 'the very sight of those dense, black, barbed-wire letters made my mind shut like a clam'. 128 Both heroines try too hard to align themselves with feminine modes of thought and behaviour. In each case, the attempt collapses. Monsieur Paul polices Lucy for any 'contraband appetite for unfeminine knowledge' such as 'science in the abstract'. The 'injustice' of this proscription stirs in Lucy 'ambitious \vishes' and 'aspiration'129 that she did not previously possess. Monsieur Paul tells Lucy that a ' "\voman of intellect" , was a 'luckless accident ... wanted neither as wife nor worker'130 (though Lucy's cleverness and independence are precisely what draw Monsieur Paul to her). Similar pressures and ambivalence are brought to bear on Esther Green\vood's conceptions of femininity in The Bell jar. Esther's alter ego Joan Gilling is made to represent the woman who trespasses into the male sphere through her masculine inclinations. Joan is a cliche of maladjusted femininity. She is 'president of her class and a physics major 156
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and the college hockey champion.... She \vas big as a horse, too' .131 By hiving off these tendencies and depositing them in Joan, Esther attempts to deny them in herself, and thereby escape punishment for them. To understand this impulse, \ve need to bear in mind the historical background of The Bell Jar: the Rosenberg execution and its allusions to, in President Eisenho\ver's vvords, Ethel Rosenberg's 'strong and recalcitrant character'132 - a description that vvould fit Esther or Lucy. Lucy's and Esther's breakdo\vns are similarly recounted. Esther's o\vn 'sickness', or crisis, occurs \vhen her period of employment as an editor of Ladies Day ends and she is rejected from the \vriting course she had counted on as'a bright, safe bridge over the dull gulf of the summer' .133 For Lucy Sno\ve, too, \vhen 'the prop of employment' is '\vithdra\vn' and she is faced with the long autumn school vacation, she grows 'miserable' and feels only a 'sorro\vful indifference to existence'. Life, Lucy comes to feel, is 'but a hopeless desert: ta\vny sands, \vith no green field, or palm-tree, no \vell in vie\v'. 134 Plath uses a similarly arid figurative language for Esther, who sees' day after day glaring ahead of me like a \vhite, broad, infinitely desolate avenue' .135 Neither heroine can sleep, and both are dra\vn to darkness and death. Lucy says of the sun and moon, 'I almost \vished to be covered in \vith earth and turf ... for I could not live on their light, nor make them comrades, nor yield them affection', 136 \vhile Esther comes to think that 'the most beautiful thing in the \vorld must be shado\v' .137 At the end of the last chapter of Volume I, Lucy's collapse and loss of vision, in \vhich she seems 'to pitch headlong into an abyss', 138 are follo\ved by disorientation. As Lucy recovers from her fainting episode at the beginning of the next chapter, she finds herself in a strange room, and only gradually orientates herself. Esther's loss of vision and consciousness in the basement after her suicide attempt at the end of Chapter Thirteen is follo\ved by confusion and the slow regaining of her senses at the beginning of Chapter Fourteen, when she awakens in the hospital in a strange room. These collapses and recoveries are strikingly akin in sequence and image. Feminine selflessness is a pressure that is implicated in the illnesses of both heroines. In her copy of Villette, Plathdra\vs a line vertically alongside the margin \vhere Monsieur Paul says to Lucy,' "Women \vho are worthy the name ought infinitely to surpass our coarse, fallible, selfindulgent sex, in the power to perform such duties'" .139 Monsieur Paul here refers to Lucy's horror and disgust at having to nurse the schoolgirl Marie Broc, \vhose'mind, like her body', is 'warped' . 'Attendance on the cretin deprived me often of the power and inclination to 157
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swallo\v a meal, and sent me faint to the fresh air', 140 Lucy tells us. Esther has a similar failure of \vill in The Bell Jar, "vhen, in the midst of her depression, she volunteers to "vork in a hospital because 'My mother said the cure for thinking too much about yourself "vas helping somebody "vho vvas "vorse off than you'.141 Plath cut a passage from an early typescript of The BeUJar that might be a read not just as a description of Esther, but also as a comment about - and sanction of Lucy's disinclination tovvards selfless charity in Villette. 'I could never be a nurse', Esther explains. 'The idea of noble service to the sick and the injured and the crippled and all the aborted monsters hidden darkly a"vay in public or private brick buildings has al\vays appealed to me, but vvhen it comes to the test, 1 turn my back. They disgust me so profoundly 1 lose my humanity.'142 Esther and Lucy both live in "vorlds \\There "vomen are scrutinised for 'unfeminine' attitudes and behaviours. Lucy remarks of Madame Beck, '''Surveillance,'' "espionage," - these "vere her "vatch"vords', and PI~th underlines the sentence in her copy of the novel. 143 Plath puts an explanation mark in the margin alongside Lucy's description of Madame, "vho '"vould ... glide ghost-like through the house, "vatching and spying everyvvhere, peering through every key-hole, listening behind every door' .144 Lucy lives '\vhere no corner' is 'sacred from intrusion' .145 Esther, too, has no place to escape regulation and surveillance. Whether an inmate of the Amazon hotel, the mental institution, or her mother's house "vhere 'anybody looking along the side\valk could glance up at the second story windovvs and see just what \vas going on', 146 Esther's world, like Lucy's, contains few spaces \vhere she can hide. Mrs Ockenden and Dodo Convvay look in at Esther through the vvindows, driving her to take cover absurdly, 'behind the silver pickets of the radiator'.147 With sinister self-righteousness and (amusing) blindness to her o"vn invasive behaviour, Mrs Ockenden even complains to Esther's mother that she has once "vitnessedEsther kissing a boy, and another time observed her 'half-naked getting ready for bed' .148 At least twice in Villette Lucy refers to herself, or her story, as 'heretic', using the "vord as an adjective. Had Lucy again visited the Catholic priest, Pere Silas, she muses that she might have become a nun instead of'"vriting this heretic narrative'.149 Much later in the text, sardonically (and rather proudly) referring to herself as she imagines Pere Silas might secretly think of her, Lucy calls herself 'the heretic English\voman' .150 Lucy fully realises that she inhabits a culture to \vhich she must be a threat, a heretic, by virtue of her Protestantism, her financial independence, and her refusal to behave as a passive, "veak woman. 158
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These are precisely the impulses in Lucy that make those around her spy upon her all the more, for their o"\vn, and supposedly Lucy's, protection. Yet Lucy manages to resist rehabilitation by this culture, and remains outside of it until the novel's end. Esther's position in The Bell Jar is similar. But \vhat threat, we might ask, is being monitored in Esther Greenwood's 1950s Am~rica? What is Esther's heresy? The ans\ver, as in the case of Lucy Sno\ve, is that \vomen \vho do not fit in \vith 'normality', \vho appear 'sick' or 'unfeminine' or 'strong', are perceived as threats. Put more exactly, Esther and Lucy are monitored for female desire and independence, \vhether these be sexual, financial, intellectual, or emotional. Like Bronte, Plath examines social and economic systems \vhose values and materials are not equally distributed, and sho\vs ho\v such a system invariably pits \vomen against one another. Esther is made to feel ambivalent about Doreen, and especially about the \vay that men respond to Doreen's sexuality and dependence. This is because Esther does not like the possible identity that Doreen represents; \vhat Esther herself might be, if she so chooses. Doreen is also a competitor. She takes for herself male attention and, by association, male po"\vers, so removing from circulation patronage and sexual affirmation that might have othenvise been available to Esther. Lucy's attitude towards Ginevra is similar to Esther's to\vards Doreen. Another potential identity is offered to Esther in the form of Betsy, Doreen's foil. A veritable incarnation of innocence, Betsy makes Esther uncomf~rtable. Similarly, Ginevra's antithesis, Polly, produces complex feelings for Lucy. Plath puts an exclamation mark in the margin alongside Dr John's ludicrously misconceived address to Lucy on the subject of Ginevra: ' "She is so lovely, one cannot but be loving to\vards her.You - every woman older than herself, must feel for such a simple, innocent, girlish fairy a sort of motherly or elder-sisterly fondness" '.151 After Lucy learns of Ginevra's marriage to De Hamal, she teases the reader, 'Of course, a large share of suffering lies in reserve for her future' . Plath underlines this, as \vell as Ginevra's triumphant declaration, "'I have got my portion!" '152 Lucy's caustic disgust, her pleasure in the probability of Ginevra's future do"\vnfall, and her puritanical disapproval mirror Esther's to"\vards Doreen. Enmity and rivalry between vvomen does not disappear bet\veen Villette and The Bell Jar. Nor does the cultivation of this enmity by male characters. Even in her beauty, Ginevra is someho\v overblo\vn and repellent. Lucy feels Ginevra's body as a 'fatiguing and selfish weight',153 a 'charming commodity' she \vishes 'there had been less of' .154 In the same 159
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vein, Esther perceives Doreen as \,varm and soft as a pile of pillows' and 'much too heavy ... to budge down the long hall'.155 Alongside a passage from Villette that might double as a representation of Esther's differing regard for Doreen and Betsy, Plath draws a vertical line, and "vrites, 'Polly & Ginny' in the margin as if the t\VO characters "vere her old friends. This glossed passage contrasts 'Ginevra's dress of deep crimson' and 'rose-like bloom' "vith 'Paulina's attire' of a 'texture clear and white'. It concludes that 'Nature' has 'traced all these details slightly, and "vith a careless hand, in Miss Fansha\ve's case, and in Miss de Bassompierre's vvrought them to a high and delicate finish' .156 Like Ginevra's, Doreen's femininity is somehow over-ripe; like Paulina, Betsy is almost exaggerated in her contrasting innocence. It is no accident that Betsy (or 'Pollyanna Cowgirl', as Doreen nastily calls her) has a 'bouncing blonde pony-tail and Sweetheart-of~Sigma-Chismile'. One of the few carefully chosen facts that Esther reveals about the events "vhich occur after the period of her breakdown is that Betsy becomes a successful model, a 'cover girl' "vhom Esther can 'still see ... smiling out of those "~Q'.s wife wears B.H.Wragge" ads'.157 It seems likely that Betsy does not simply act out what she imitates - that is to say, an expensively dressed, unthreatening, happy, healthily consumer capitalist 'wife' - but also becolnes one. Clean, beautiful Betsy is a 1950s dream girl whose image can be used to represent \vhat American "vaman should aspire to economically, socially and aesthetically. Like Polly, Betsy is (literally) the model others can emulate. Not every \voman has the bone structure, breeding and money of a Polly or a Betsy, or "vishes to trade on these through marriage even if she does. The Bell Jar, like Villette, addresses the question of what a "voman can do to become independent, economically as "veIl as artistically and imaginatively. Plath dra"vs a line beneath the passage 'I could teach ... but to be either a private governess or a companion "vas unnatural to me. Rather than fill the former post in any great house, I "vould deliberately have taken a housemaid's place, bought a strong pair of gloves, s"vept bedrooms and staircases, and cleaned stoves and locks, in peace and independence. Rather than be a companion, I \vould have made shirts and starved' .158 Later in Villette, Monsieur Paul tells Lucy he "vill not "vrite because he dislikes 'the mechanical labour; I hate to stoop and sit still. I could dictate it, though, vvith pleasure to an amanuensis \vho suited me'. Though tempted 'to gather and store up those handfuls of gold-dust' ,159 Monsieur Paul's stories, this is nonetheless an honour Lucy politely declines, and may well be the genesis of Esther's famous declaration against shorthand: 'I hated the idea of serving men 160
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in any \vay. I wanted to dictate my own thrilling letters' .160 To serve a man as a secretary or typist in the 1950s is a socially sanctified equivalent to Bronte's nineteenth-century \vorking girl, the 'governess' or ,companion' . What also remains between Villette and The BellJar is the heavy proscription against young \vomen \vho exhibit disrespect for a man's mother. Plath heavily emphasises this aspect of Villette, as if marking out a series of notes and reminders to herself on a subject that she intends to revisit. Esther kno"vs that her dislike of Mrs Willard borders on the criminal, and that Mrs Tomolillo is institutionalised for sticking her tongue out at her mother-in-law, or in other \vords, for derision to\vards the mother of her husband, and by extension, insolence to"vards her husband himself. Dr John is finally cured of his love for Ginevra \vhen she exhibits irreverence to\vards his mother. Plath underlines every step of his conversion, as she does his admission to Lucy that' "I never sa\v her ridiculed before. Do you know, the curling lip, and sarcastically levelled glass thus directed, gave me a most curious sensation?" '161 (Plath \vrites in the margin alongside this, 'It's about time!') In the follo"ving passage, Plath underlines just the \vord 'mother':' "She might have scoffed at tne ... through myself, she could not in ten years have done what, in a moment, she has done through my mother." , She also marks Graham's declaration that' "The merry may laugh lvith mamma, but the \veak only will laugh at her'" .162 Plath does not highlight Graham's comment that' "Ginevra is neither a pure-minded angel nor a pure-minded "voman'" .163 Nonetheless, she provides a twentieth-century t\vist on such nineteenth-century rhetoric in The Bell Jar, with Mrs Greenwood's fixation on Buddy Willard being a 'fine, clean boy' \vhom 'a girl should stay fine and clean for' .164 What finally repels Graham from Ginevra is his perception that she is 'neither girlish nor innocent'. He observes Ginevra giving De Hamal a 'look marking mutual and secret understanding' and concludes that 'No woman ... who could give or receive such a glance, shall ever be sought in marriage by me' .165 The imputation of Ginevra's sexual kno\vingness, and possibly bodily experience, is clear. She is not, to use Plath's language, 'fine and clean', or, to use Bronte's, 'pure-minded'. With 'a smile so critical, so almost callous', Graham Bretton gives Lucy his opinion of an actress. He 'judged her as a woman, not an artist: it was a branding judgment' .166 In the 'slutty'167 or'tarty' ,,~aitress Buddy Willard sleeps with but won't take home to meet his mother,168 Plath gives us a 1950s version of the "voman who, by class and profession, is not deemed by the middle-class man to be \vorthy of his respect or 161
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marriage. 'I hate public opinion for encouraging boys to prove their virility & condemning ,vomen for doing so' ,169 Plath ,vrote in a 1952 letter. Plath's interest in this sexual double standard "vas evident in her response to Henry James's 1877 novel The Alnericatl. Again, Plath's heavy annotations and underlining demonstrate an engaged, energetic feminism in her reading, and seem to map out her future interests and vvriting. A former salesman and manufacture.! of \vashtubs, the eponymous hero of The Anlerican is N e\:vman, a young American abroad in Europe. Despite his \:vealth and his enthusiasm for Europe, Ne\tvman is disadvantaged by the unfamiliar subtleties and hierarchies of class in \vhich he finds himself immersed, and oblivious to the a\vk\tvardness and naIvete of his position and behaviour. Plath marks Nevvman's plans for the future: 'I have succeeded, and no\tv \vhat am I to do \vith my success? To make it perfect, as I see it, there must be a beautiful vvoman perched on the pile, like a statue on a monument. She must be as good as she is beautiful, and as clever as she is good.... I vvant to possess, in a \vord, the best article in the market'. Next to this mock-fairytale passage, Plath glosses the margin vvith the "vords 'commercial parlance'.170 In a similar vein, Plath also puts a line beneath the words 'he [Nevvman] had already begun to value the world's admiration of Madame de Cintre, as adding to the prospective glory of possession'. Close to this Plath \tvrites, 'Typical'. 171 Plath dra\tvs an exclamation mark alongside a passage concerning Nevvman's idealistic friend and fello\v traveller Babcock: 'his most vivid realization of evil had been the discovery that one of his college classmates ... had a love affair vvith a young \voman \vho did not expect him to marry her'.172 Ne\vman affects disdain for Babcock's unworldly vie\v ofvvomen, but it is a vievv Nevvman shares. Women in The Atnerican are deified 'like a statue' if they are sufficiently beautiful, rich and virtuous. If they appear to enjoy relationships vvith men, but entertain no economic aspirations towards marriage, they are derided. These are the very hypocrises and contradictions that Plath explores in The BellJar. Too much desire disqualifies a \voman from male middle-class approval and support, both social and economic.Yet for Esther, too little desire is also a sort of crime. To scorn a man's sexual attractiveness is as much a taboo as giving in to it. By the standards of her day and, paradoxically, thrQugh her lack of desire too, Esther fails. Her dereliction is made all the more taboo for its coupling \tvith a disdain not just for the man's mother, but, \tvorse yet, for his own sexuality. Esther famously scoffs at Buddy's naked body, remarking that all she' could think of \vas 162
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turkey neck and turkey gizzards' .173 In an early typescript of the novel, Plath deletes a sentence in \vhich Esther acknowledges the transgressiveness and, to 1950sdouble thinking, abnormality of such a stance (ho\vever funny it may be). When Buddy invites Esther to undress too, Plath crosses out her heroine's thoughts on the proposition: 'I thought there must be something vvrong \vith me. I just vvanted to go home'. 174 In her copy of Villette, Plath underscores Lucy's allusion to Dr John's 'masculine self-love' and writes in the margin 'R?'175 Here, Plath signals her recognition that certain forms of male behaviour and privilege have persisted from the nineteenth-century into her own history and culture. 'Hovv I love to read D. & l? into Dr.John!' she vvrites in the margin at the end of Villette's Chapter XIX.176 Buddy Willard is certainly a 1950s version of Dr John. Both characters have been friends \vith the heroine since childhood; both have close connections to her family, notably a friendship bet\veen their mothers. Lucy says of Dr John, 'he regarded me scientifically in the light of a patient'. Plath dra\vs a line beneath these \vords, and another alongside the margin \vhere the passage continues, 'and at once exercised his professional skill, and gratified his natural benevolence, by a course of cordial and attentive treatment'.177 Dr John, like Buddy Willard, regards the "voman as an object or case. She is s0111ething to study or cure or teach. No longer a threat to him or to society ill its larger sense, he can congratulate himself for making the "voman reasonable, for improving her and bringing her under conventional control, no longer neurotic or delusional. Buddy himself, Esther tells us, is 'al\vays trying to explain things to me and introduce me to ne\v kno\vledge'.178 Lucy asserts that 'doctors are so self-opinionated, so immovable in their dry, materialist vie\vs'. 179 Plath highlights this assertion, as she does Lucy's assessment that 'Dr. John, throughout his whole life, \vas a man of luck - a man of success. And \vhy? Because he had the eye to see his opportunity, the heart to prompt to \vell-timed action, the nerve to consummate a perfect work. And no tyrant-passion dragged him back; no enthusiasms, no foibles encumbered his \vay' .180 Such smug certainty, valorised by the very different times and cultures, is repellent to both heroines; their revulsion to\vards this aspect of masculinity is what marks Lucy and Esther as different from their female contemporaries, and threatening to their respective cultures. Lucy assesses Dr John's vie\v of Paulina, and Plath points up this assessment. 'The pearl he admired "vas in itself of great price and truest purity, but he was not the man "vho, in appreciating the gem, could forget its setting'. 'Setting', here, is the matrix of money and social class 163
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that support Paulina, who vvould not appear so beautiful to John in the context of poverty. Dr John "\vants the 'adjuncts that Fashion decrees, Wealth purchases, and Taste adjusts'. Next to these vvords, Plath states the obvious, jotting 'John's standards materialistic' .181 Lucy Sno"\ve vvorries that Paulina and her father, the Count, vvill cool to"\vards her once her 'grade in society'182 is discovered by them, and Plath marks this in her copy of the book. Plath, like Bronte, asks "\vhere a woman might fit vvhen her education and company differ from the social and economic class she is born into, or falls into. Both novels situate themselves as anti-fairy stories, as variants of, or, rather, challenges to, 'Cinderella', that most famous of tales of a vvoman's social mobility. As Ginevra puts it to the miraculously transformed Lucy, ' "It seems so odd ... that you and I should no"\v be so much on a level, visiting in the same sphere; having the same connections'" .183 Ginevra asks, ' "Who are you, Miss Snowe?" , as if Lucy really is a strange princess \-vho has turned up for the ball, and Lucy can only tease, ' "Perhaps a personage in disguise. Pity I don't look the character" '.184 Esther too is out of her element, confessing that she 'hadn't been out of Nevv England except for this trip to N evv York. It "\vas my first bIg chance'. The society girls vvho are 'bored \-vith yachts and bored vvith flying around in aeroplanes and bored with skiing in S"\vitzerland at Christmas and bored "\vith the men in Brazil' wrong-foot Esther. i8s The 'Cinderella' aspect of The Bell Jar is made more explicit in tvvo sentences that Plath crosses out in an early typescript of the novel (she later uses the reverse of this page of the typescript for a draft of'Stopped Dead'). 'Jay Cee didn't have any children, but that didn't matter. It might make her just that much more "\villing to adopt somebody like me.'186 In true fairy tale fashion, Jay Cee, Philomena Guinea, and Doctor Nolan are potential fairy godmothers about vvhom Esther feels strongly ambivalent. These surrogate mother figures echo Villette's Madame Beck (the proprietress of the school \vhere Lucy teaches), Miss Marchmont (the elderly, crippled woman to whom Lucy is briefly a companion and friend), and Mrs Bretton (Dr John's mother). Lucy says of Miss Marchmont, 'Even \-vhen she scolded - vvhich she did, no\v and then, very tartly - it vvas in such a vvay as did not humiliate, and left no sting; it vvas rather like an irascible mother rating her daughter, than a harsh mistress lecturing a dependent'. 187 Plath placed an exclamation mark in the margin by this passage. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first tvvo volumes of their fairy tales in 1812 and 1815,just before Charlotte Bronte's birth in 1816. Included in these editions "\vere versions of those famous stories 164
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about bad relationships bet\veen mothers and daughters, 'Cinderella' and 'Sno\v White'. In true fairy tale fashion, Miss Marchmont represents the good, lost mother, \vho, like Cinderella's mother, fir;Wy but lovingly instructs the young \voman to 'be good and pious', promising to 'look down from heaven and take care' of her. 188 Miss Marchmont makes a similar speech to Lucy before dying, only to return from the dead - again like Cinderella's mother - \vith a much-needed gift some time later. (In Cinderella's case, these gifts are beautiful dresses to \vear to the prince's three-day festival, and the exposure of the stepsisters so that Cinderella can become a bride. In Lucy's case, the gift is of' an additional hundred pounds',189 \vhich she uses to set up her school and home, and, with Monsieur Paul's probable death at sea, to survive independently.) Madame Beck, on the other hand, is the bad, threatening mother figure. Like the stepmother trying to prevent the "'true bride" '190 from claiming her rightful place, Madame Beck jealously stands bet\veen the heroine and her 'prince', or in the case of Villette, bet\veen Lucy and Monsieur Paul. Madame Beck even gives Lucy a version of the lentils Cinderella must sort before she can go to Villette's adaptation of the ball. An opiate ('I was to be held quiet for one night'191) nearly stops Lucy from attending the Midsummer night festival or 'land of enchantment',192 \vhere she \vatches her friends and acquaintances as if in a dream. Fairy tales frequently split the good and bad aspects of a mother into separate characters. In Grimm's'Sno\v White', the good mother must die, leaving the child subject to the envy and aggression of the stepmother. Clearly, these counterparts of real and false mother are one and the same, crudely split. The wicked queen repeats the \vords of Sno\v White's natural mother, '''White as sno\v, red as blood, black as ebony!" '193 Ho\v could the wicked queen know these vvords, and echo them? The ansvver must be that she herself uttered them in the first place, \vhen she made her original vvish for a beautiful daughter: the good, supposedly 'dead' mother and the \vickedqueen are one and the same. Early translations ofsuch fairy tales did not bother to disguise real mothers as stepmothers. Only the later versions imposed the separation of good and bad, real mother and surrogate, into discrete characters. Bronte, like the authors of the later tales vvith \vhich she \vould have been familiar, similarly apportions a mother's love and hate into distinct figures. As if to signal further her intent that Miss Marchmont and Madame Beck should be read as diametrically opposed versions of the mother, Bronte fleetingly refers to their first names: both are called Maria,194 as 165
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if after the holy mother (and perhaps Bronte's ovvn dead mother and elder sister). In my discussion of Plath's 'Paralytic', I spoke of Melanie Klein's idea of the good and bad breasts, vvhich represent, respectively, the polar opposites of good and bad mothers. The good mother, or good breast, like Miss Marchmont, and like Cinderella's mother (vvho posthumously clothes her daughter, looking after her in the most fundamental of "vays), provides love and sustenance that can be relied upon. The bad mother, like Madame~Beck, takes \vhat is most valuable for herself, leaving the younger woman scraps at best, and poison at vvorst, but never anything approaching mother's milk; the only fluid Madame Beck can offer is toxic. As Lucy puts it, 'To be left to her and her cordial, seemed to me something like being left to the poisoner and her bo\vl'. 195 Mrs Bretton, the third of Lucy's mother figures, is also a good mother. She is, in fact, literally Lucy's godmother, preserving a link to Lucy's real parents as "veIl as the higher economic and social position Lucy once held. By contrast to Madame Beck, Lucy tells us, 'Food or drink never pleased me so well as "vhen it came through her hands' .196 Plath invokes this opposition betvveen the good and the bad mother in The Bell Jar. If "ve measure the depictions of Esther's first and second experiences of electric shock treatment against each other, "ve see that Plath renders Melanie Klein's ideas about good and bad breasts actual as vvell as s)rmbolic. in the first instance, Esther describes the preparations for her treatment: The nurse started swabbing my temples "vith a smelly grease. As she leaned over to reach the side of my head nearest the wall, her fat breast muffled my face like a cloud or a pillo"v. A vague, medicinal stench emanated from her flesh. 197 This is the bad breast at its vvorst. Instead of feeding and sustaining, the nurse's motherly body, her mammary glands, here literally suffocate. Feminine flesh is not inviting but, rather, repulsive "vith its unnatural 'medicinal stench'. This scene can be read as the mother/child encounter gone "vrong, inverted into pain, fear and death. It is a scene of the bad or threatening mother exacting revenge, and it ends "vith Esther stating, 'I vvondered "vhat terrible thing it "vas that I had done', 198 asking like a child why she is being punished by the terrible parent. The first shock treatment is "vhat precipitates Esther's famous suicide attempt, vvhich is followed by her rescue by the emergency services at 166
SYLVIA PLATH'S VILLETTE
the start of Chapter Fourteen. Ending "\vith Esther's cry, "'Mother"', 199 the rescue reads like a squeeze through the birth canal as much as a ride in an ambulance and a rush through hospital corridors. The second electric shock treatment occurs after another, very different, mother!child encounter, also told vvith an emphasis on nurturing and food that is in keeping "\vith Melanie Klein's theories. Esther, fattening on insulin as if it "\vere mother's milk, wakes one morning ',varm and placid in my ,vhite cocoon'200 like an infant in her cradle, only to discover that there is to be no breakfast, no 'fat blue china cream jug'.201 The bad breast threatens again. No breakfast means electric shock treatment, and Esther curls like a sulking child in 'the alcove ,vith the blanket over my head', furious at Doctor Nolan's'treachery'202 in not warning her in advance. Doctor Nolan's response to Esther, ho\vever, is played out as the response of the good, reassuring parent: she 'put her arm around me and hugged me like a mother'. Echoing the sort of promise a mother vvould make to a child vvho has had a bad dream, or fears the first day of school, Doctor Nolan tells Esther, '''I'll be there ,vhen you "\vake up, and I'll bring you back again" '.' "Promise you'll be there"', 203 Esther woefully presses in a sentence that can only be read aloud in a small child's voice, to \'vhich Doctor Nolan accedes once more. The treatment itself, awful as it may be, is handled "vith gentleness and care, \vithEsther's fear ackno\vledged. Keeping to her vow, Doctor Nolan is by Esther's bed when she \'vakes, like a mother ,vatching over her sick child. To look at The BellJar's relationships to other texts, and Plath's to Woolf and Bronte, is to discredit from yet another angle that no,v fanliliar accusation that Plath's \vriting is alvvays (and only) personal. (As Stevenson puts it in the much-read Bitter Fatne, 'she never quite abandoned her self preoccupation'. 204) To read Plath in this way also counters the related and often-stated criticism that she too often indulges in abject imitation, that her vvork is too derivative of writers such as Lo\vell and Roethke,205 from \'vhom she learns 'how to include her life in poetry'. 206 Plath's ,vriting should not be disparaged for its textual exchanges \vith other writers; ,ve have seen hovv Plath's \,vork itself argues that borders are not solid or stable, "vhether these borders are of countries, ecosystems, or cultural identities. The same can be said of Plath's o\vn literary texts. Already I have suggested that it is sometimes fruitful to regard Plath's poems not as separate, but as connected parts of a larger entity. In a similar vein, Plath speaks to and from the \'vriters who preceded her, particularly Woolf and Bronte. As \ve \vill now see, 167
THE ORIGINS OF THE BELL JAR
Plath's writing can also be vie\ved as part of a dialogue \vith the work of her contemporaries, notably with the poetry of Ted Hughes. Evaluating Plath's \vork in this way, as part of a conversation, helps us to dispel further the notion of her alleged self-absorption and lack of connection to any \vorld or thing that is not her ovvn.
Notes 1. Woolf,A R001n of One's OUJn, 1992: 99. 2. Axelrod, Sylvia Plath:Thel¥ound and the Cure ojlVords, 1990: 100. 3. Bassnett, Sylvia Plath, 1987: 153. Axelrod suggests that Esther's failed attempt to dro"\vn herself in The BellJar may be a re\vrite ofWoolf's o\vn suicide by dro\vning (Axelrod, Sylvia Plath: The MlOund and the Cure of WlOrds, 1990: 101). 4. Butscher, Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness, 1976: 190. 5. Hard\vick, 'On Sylvia Plath', 1985: 105, 106. 6. Letters Horne, 230. Gilbert, 'In Yeats' House', 1984: 216. 7. (The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1982: 168. The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 2000: 289.) Axelrod, Sylvia Plath: The fMJund and the Cure ofvVords, 1990: 102. 8. (The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1982: 186. The Journals of SyltJia Plath, 2000: 315.) Axelrod, S}JZvia Plath: The TIVOund andthe Cure ifTIVOrds, 1990: 4; Wagner-Martin, Sylvia Plath, 1987: 156. 9. (The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1982: 152,305,306-7. The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 2000: 269, 286, 485, 494. Letters HOlne, 305, 322.) 'Have read three Virginia Woolf novels this \veek and find them excellent stimulation for tny own \vriting' (Letters H01ne, 324) is typical of these comments. 10. As Gilbert describes them, the three voices of Plath's characters are: 'First', a\voman \vho gives birth to a "\vanted baby and is like Susan a 'nurturing mother'; 'Second', a woman vvho repeatedly miscarries and like Rhoda lacks 'appropriate femaleness'; and 'Third', a \voman "\vho has her baby adopted and like ]inny lives 'seductively but "\vithout attachments' (Gilbert, 'InYeats' House', 1984: 217). Gilbert's textual evidence is persuasive. For instance, Plath's infertile SecondVoice 'fears that "the streets may turn to paper suddenly'" (ibid.: 218; Collected POe1tlS, 187) \vhile Rhoda 'imagines her defiance as "a thin dream ... a papery tree'" (Gilbert, 'In Yeats' House' ,1984: 217-18;Woolf, The Waves, 1992: 213). 11. Gilbert, 'InYeats' House', 1984: 217. 12. A.xelrod, Sylvia Plath: The liflound and the Cure offMJrds, 1990: 36. 13. Perhaps tenuously, he points out that Victoria Lucas, the pseudonym under \vhich Plath first published The BellJar, has 'an identical number of letters' (Axelrod, Sylvia Plath: The Jir70und and the Cure ofWords, 1990: 115) 168
14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.
to Virginia Wool£; and that Virginia andVictoria end "vith the same four letters. He observes also that in the typescript for The BellJar the heroine "vas calledVictoria Lucas, and that the fictional Victoria names her o"vn fictional heroine 'Virginia' (ibid.: 115). Readers who find such name games persuasive might consider also the heroine of Plath's 1957/8 story 'Stone Boy With Dolphin'. DodyVentura, an aspiring poet, falls for another poet called Leonard, who might be named after Leonard Woolf. Axelrod, Sylvia Plath: The Wtbundand the Cure qfWords, 1990: 116. ]ohnl1}1 Panic, 56. Woolf, Orlando, 1992: 13. Johnny Panic, 56. Woolf, Orlando, 1992: 13. Johnny Partie, 56. Woolf,l\1[rs DaUolvay, 1992: 18.We can see the influence oEWoolf's stream of consciousness, and use of water, in Plath's 1952 story 'A Day in June'. The heroine has gone canoeing vvith her friend Linda: the hot touch of sun on your skin ... blinding arrows of sunlight glancing off the deep glassed blue of the vvater the exhilaration ... bubbles rising, bursting ... the gliding motion the liquid singing of \vater past the bo\v ... shifting specks of color dancing: all this to love, to cherish. Never again such a day!! You paddle to a cove ... you drift ... you lie back and close your eyes against the sunlight, hot upon the lids ... you squint into the sunlight and there are vvebs of rainbows on your lashes. Lulled by the rhythmic lapping of \;vaves against the prow, the rocking ... the gliding ... you drift near shore (plath, 'A Day in June', 6;]ohnny Panic, 247).
21. LILLY Plath MSS. II, Memorabilia. Smith College - Papers, Eq-Z. Box 10, folder 8. 'NIrs. Dallal,pay: Virginia Woolf' . 22. Jah1ltzy Panic, 56. 23. Ibid. 24. Woolf, A Rooln of One's OUltl, 1992: 101. 25. Johnny Panic, 57. 26. Woolf,A R0011l of One's OU.Jtl, 1992: 117, 100. 27. Johnny Panic, 58. 28. Woolf, A Room of One's OlVl1, 1992: 90. 29. Tile Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1982: 165. The Jaurnalsof Sylvia Plath, 2000: 286. 30. The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1982: 307. The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 2000: 494. 31. Tile Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1982: 37. The Journalsqf Sylvia Plath, 2000: 100. 32. Woolf, Congenial Spirits, 1989: 69, 61, 64. 33. TheJournals of Sylvia Plath, 1982: 171. The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 2000: 294. 34. The Jou-ntalsof Sylvia Plath, 1982: 312. The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 2000: 500.
THE ORIGINS OF THE BELL JAR
35. SMITH. Woolf,Virginia. .i t Haunted House and Other Stories. Lonclon:The Hogarth Press, 1944, 1953. Plath did not underline or annotate 'The Legacy'. 36. Rose, The Hauntingcif Syh/ia Plath, 1991: xi, 179, 181. 37. Woolf, The COlllplete Shorter Fiction, 1989: 281. 38. Johnny Panic, 48. 39. Ibid., 50. 40. Ibid., 52. 41. Woolf, TI,e Cornplete Shorter Fiction, 1989: 281. 42. JohnllY Panic, 50. 43. Ibid., 53. 44. Ibid., 54. 45. Atvvood, The Edible VWJnlan, 1980: 6, 8. 46. Woolf, The COl'nplete Shorter Fiction, 1989: 284-5. 47. Johnny Partie, 55. 48. Ibid., 54. 49. A.xelrod, Sylvia Plath.: The ltJ1>und and the Cure ciffivbrds, 1990: 107,112, 108. 50. Woolf, ./:1 Roonl of One5 OUln, 1992: 74, 109-13. 51. Axelrod, Sylt1ia Plath: The ~l!ound and the Cure (f~"l'ords, 1990: 113. 52. Woolf, A R0011'l cif One'-, OUln, 1992: 134. 53. TIle BellJa.r, 123. Esther recalls 'Buddy Willard saying in a sinister, kno\ving "vay that after I had children I \vould feel differently, I \vouldn't \vant to \vrite poems any more' (Ibid., 89). 54. Woolf, A ROOHl of Ones OtVtl, 1992: 28. 55. The BeUJar, 197. 56. Ibid., 65. Plath must also have chosen the title and central image of her novel for its association vvith bee-keeping. Bee-keepers encourage their bees to put their comb honey in a 'bell jar ... surrounded by glass "vool insulation and a fitting etnpty brood box to keep vvarnl and dark'. Brown, Beekeeping, 1985: 92. 57. Woolf,A R0011l of Ones Ounl, 1992: 134. 58. Collected Poenls, 142. 59. Woolf,A ROOftl cifOnes 01vn, 1992: 68. 60. Collected Poenls, 139. 61. Woolf, A RootH of Ones OU)l1, 1992: 22. 62. The Bell Jar, 37. 63. Woolf, A Rooln of Ones OtVH, 1992: 36, 38. 64. Woolf, To The Lighthouse, 1992: 49. 65. Plath looks at this problem repeatedly in her \vork. See for instance the 1959 poem 'The Colossus' or, again, 'The Wishing Box' 66. The text discloses that Sally has her o\vn male interruptions, ironically, '''five enormous boys'" (Woolf, AIrs Dallotvay, 1992: 225). 67. Abel, "f,/'irginia ~'lioolfand the Fictions of Ps}'choanalysis, 1989: 32-3. 170
68. Woolf, AIrs DaUoluay, 1992: 46. 69. Many critics have noted the images of sexual climax \vhich surround the midday reverie of the kiss. Clarissa thinks of 'a tinge like a blush \vhich one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the \vorld come closer' (Woolf, l\tlrs DaU01VQY, 1992: 41). 70. ~xelrod, Sylvia Plath: The f"fiJund and the Cure ifvtb rds, 1990: 119. 71. The se\.ving is oft-quoted:'dra\ving the silk smoothly to its gentle pause' (Woolf, Airs Dallou/ay, 1992: 50). 72. Abel, Vitginia J4i oolfand the Fictions elf Psychoanalysis, 1989: 32. 73. The BellJar, 23. ~xelrod observes that 'Clarissa and Esther symbolically undergo their death by means of a double, vvho represents, enacts, and purges their suicidal impulses' (Axelrod, Sj1lvia Plath: The Ttf0und and the Cure £?1~vJibrds, 1990: 121). 74. SMITH. Box: Plath- Prose - The BellJar. Folder: Prose Works - The Bell Jar, Progress Report, 1 Aug. 1962. 75. The BellJar, 61. 76. Ibid., 23. 77. Ibid., 229. 78. Ibid., 23. 79. Ibid., 4,123. 80. Macpherson, Reflecting on The BellJar, 1991: 1-5,28-40. 81. Kazin, Bright Book of Life, 1971: 185. 82. The BellJar, 232. 83. Ibid., 237. 84. Sue Roe noted Clarissa's 'virginity preserved through childbirth' (Woolf, l\;frs Dallolvay, 1992: 40; Roe, ~'flriting and Gender, 1990: 89). Plath's o\vn examination of Esther's burdensome and very bloody virginity in The Bell Jar may be a revision and recantation of this aspect ofWoolf's text. 85. Woolf, l\tfrs DaUouJay, 1992: 101. 86. Abel, ~7irginia ~'f!Oolf and the Fictions if Psychoanalysis, 1989: 29. 87. Van Dyne, RCllising Life, 1993: 122-3. She vvrites:'When Buddy Willard (the fictionalised Dick Norton) recites his mother's advice ... Esther Greenvvood contemptuously dismisses the feminine role'. 88. The BellJar, 75. 89. Ibid., 93. 90. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems, 'A Birthday Present' - 'Cut'. Folder: Ariel Poems, 'Crossing the Water', Draft 2. The cut sentence is adjacent to Buddy's 'I nlay yet lose a rib or t\VO' on p. 97 of the Faber edition of The BeUJar. 91. The BellJar, 1, 4, 14. 92. Macpherson, Reflecting on The BellJar, 1991: 33. 93. The BellJar, 96. 94. Ibid., 95. I
TH E ORIGINS OF THE BELL JAR
95. Ibid., 8. 96. Ibid., 94. 97. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems, Amnesiac - Berck-Plage. Folder: Ariel Poems, 'Among the Narcissi', Draft 1. 98. The BellJar, 94. 99. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems, Amnesiac - Berck-Plage. Folder: Ariel Poems, 'Among the Narcissi', Draft 1. 100. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems, Amnesiac - Berck-Plage. Folder: Ariel Poems - drafts, 'The Arrival of the Bee Box', Draft 1.The excised line appears between 'innocent' and 'Tell me about' on p. 72 of the Faber edition of The BellJar. 101. LILLY Plath MSS. II, Correspondence, 1974, Box 6a.Aurelia Plath to Ted and Carol Hughes. Not dated. Sent 28 Nov. 1974. 102. SMITH. Box: Plath - Biography. Folder: Biography, Plath,Aurelia Schober, 'Biographical Jottings' About SP 103. SMITH. Prose Works -TIle BellJar-T.L. 14 Nov. 1961 to James [Michie], editor for The BellJar. 104. The BeUJar, 190. 105. SMITH. Box: Plath - Prose - The BellJar. Folder: Prose Works - The BellJar - Outline of Chapters. 106. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems, Nick and the Candlestick - Sheep in Fog Folder: Ariel Poems, 'Pheasant', Draft 1. This cut sentence "\vould follo"\v 'seven dimly lit steps into a sort of cellar' on p. 81 of the Faber edition of The BellJar. 107. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems, 'A Birthday Present' - 'Cut'. Folder: Ariel Poems, 'The Courage of Shutting-Up', Draft 1. 108. The BellJar, 123. 109. Ibid., 3. 110. LILLY Plath MSS. 1961,29 Oct. 'The babysitters'. The BellJar, 240. 111. The BellJar, 84. 112. Woolf, 'Professions for Women', 1979: 58-60. 113. The BellJar, 215. 114. Ibid., 163. 115. SMITH. Box: Plath - Memorabilia, Notes. Folder: Notes,Jung. 116. Byatt, ,Sylvia Plath: Letters HOfne', 1976: 251. 117. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London: J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949. 118. Kazin, Bright Book of Life, 1971: 185. 119. Bronfen, Sylvia Plath, 1998: 35. 120. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 14. 121. The BellJar, 12. 122. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London:J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 178. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 248. 123. The BellJar, 36. 172
124. 125. 126. 127. 128. 129. 130. 131. 132. 133. 134. 135. 136. 137. 138. 139. 140. 141. 142.
143. 144. 145. 146. 147. 148. 149. 150. 151. 152. 153. 154. 155. 156.
Ibid., 37. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 334. Ibid., 376. Ibid., 334. The BeUJar, 34. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 441. Ibid., 445. The BeUJar, 61. Quoted in Macpherson, Reflecting 011 The BeUJar, 1991: 38. The BellJar, 120. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 193. The BellJar, 135. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 196. The BeUJar, 155. Bronte, ~7iUette, 1990: 202. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London:].M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 184. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 255. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 195. The BeUJar, 171. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems, Amnesiac - Berck-Plage. Folder: Ariel Poems, 'Anlong the Narcissi', Draft 2. The cut passage \vould have follo\ved the phrase, 'as if the corners of his mouth "\vere strung up on invisible "vire', on p. 94 of The BellJar. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London:J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 62. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 89. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London:J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 63. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 90. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 290. The BeUJar, 121. Ibid., 123. Ibid., 122. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 201. Ibid., 526. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London:J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 135. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 186. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London:J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 434. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 594. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 468. Ibid., 475. The BellJar, 23. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London:J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 284. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 389. TIle BellJar, 6, 7. 173
THE ORIGINS OF THE BELL JAR
158. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London:J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 271. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 371. 159. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 478. 160. The BellJar, 79. 161. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853) ..London:J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 196. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 272. 162. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London:J.M. Dent & Sons,Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 197. Bronte, TfiUettc, 1990: 273. 163. Bronte, T/illette, 1990: 274. 164. The BellJar, 70-1,71. 165. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 281. 166. Ibid., 325. 167. The BellJar, 73. 168. Ibid., 74. 169. SMITH. Box: Plath - Letters (Plath - Sylvia). Folder: Plath.A.L.s.Jan. 1952. 170. LILLY Janles, Henry. TheAlnericall (1877). NevvYork: Rinehart & Co., 1949,1953: 34, Chapter Three. 171. LILLY Janles, Henry. TheAtnerican (1877). NevvYork: Rinehart & Co., 1949, 1953: 125, Chapter Ten. 172. LILLY James, Henry. TheArnerican (1877). NevvYork: Rinehart & Co., 1949,1953: 64, Chapter Four. 173. The BeUlar, 71. 174. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems, Amnesiac - Berck-Plage. Folder: Ariel Poems - drafts, 'The Bee Meeting', Draft 2. 175. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London:J.M. Dent & Sons, Everynlan's Library, 1909, 1949: 178. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 247. 176. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London:J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 186. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 258. 177. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London:J.M. Dent & Sons, EverYIlJ-aJ.?-'s Library, 1909,1949: 231. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 318. 178. Th.e BeUJar, 70. 179. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London: J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 233. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 321. 180. LIL·LY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London:J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 290. Bronte, Ttl'illette, 1990: 396-7. 181. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). London:J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 336. Bronte, T/illette, 1990: 463-4. 182. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. ~7illette (1853). London:J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 259. Bronte, T/Tillette, 1990: 354. 183. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 382. 184. Ibid., 383. 185. The BellJar, 4. 174
NOTES 186. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems, Stings -Years. Folder: Ariel Poems, 'Stopped Dead', Draft 1. The cut passage "\vould have follo"\ved 'Then I'd knovv \vhat to do' in The BeUJar, 40. 187. LILLY Bronte, Charlotte. l/illette (1853). London:].M. Dent & Sons, Everyman's Library, 1909, 1949: 30. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 45. 188. 'Cinderella', in Grimm, The C0111plete Fair}' lilIes of the Brothers Grinun, 1992: 86. 189. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 614. 190. 'Cinderella', in Grimm, The C0111plete Fair}! Tales of the Brothers Grinull, 1992: 92. 191. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 562. 192. Ibid., 566. 193. 'Snovv White', in Grimm., The Conlplete Fair}' Ta1eso..f the Brothers GriHun, 1992: 202. 194. Bronte, Villette, 1990: 50,88. 195. Ibid., 600. 196. Ibid., 225. 197. The BellJar, 151. 198. Ibid., 152. 199. Ibid., 181. 200. Ibid., 221. 201. Ibid., 222. 202. Ibid.., 223. Ibid., 224.
203. 204. 205. 206.
Stevenson, BiUer Falne, 1989: 287. Kenner, 'Sincerity Kills', 1989: 72. McClatchy, 'Short Circuits and Folding Mirrors', 1989: 84.
A WAY OF GETTING TH E POEMS
n his poem 'The Tender Place', Ted Hughes takes the line 'Overexposed,like an X-ray'l verbatim fronl Plath's 1962 poem 'Medusa'. One \vay of accounting for the duplication is to see it, not as a theft, but rather as a cue. In a moment that can only be a\vare of its import, Hughes signals to the reader that his poetry speaks both to and from Plath's. This relationship bet\veen the t\VO oeuvres \vas made explicit in 1995, \vhen Hughes published a section of'Uncollected' poems in his ]\Teu/ Selected PoenlS and included 'The Tender Place'. It has been made still more obvious \vith the publication in February 1998 of Birthda}l Letters, \vhich the book's cover advertises as Hughes's 'personal account'2 of his relationship with Plath, and where we find numerous other echoes of Plath's lines. 3 Further still, Hughes has published eleven littlekno\vn poems about Plath in a limited edition of only 110 numbered copies. The collection is called Hotvls & "W1lispers, and it was published in the summer of 1998. It puts paid to the idea that Birthday Letters \vas Hughes's 'final \vork on his relationship with Sylvia Plath'.4 (If the posthumous publication history of Plath's o\vn vvriting is anything to go by, it \vould be rash to discount the likelihood that further ne\v works by Hughes will appear.) These eleven Hotvls & "W11ispers poems are, as it \vere, Birthday Letters poems not published in Birthday Letters. 'The Minotaur', for instance, appears in Birthday Letters, \vhile Hughes places 'The Minotaur 2' in Hotvls & "W11ispers. 'The Minotaur 2' follo\vs the regular quatrains of the Birthday Letters poem, as \vell as its idea that \vriting can be destructive to real life. The poems in HOtvls & Whispers
\vere among the last that Hughes published in his lifetime. They represent the most recent development in the careers of t\VO \vriters \vhose literary conversations with each other are, to use a phrase of Hughes's, 'a \vay of getting the poems'. 5
THE CRITICS ON HUGHES AND PLATH
The Critics on Hughes and Plath If vve are to understand the undeniable textual relationship bet\veen Plath's \vork and Hughes's, it is instructive to begin by looking in detail at the way that Hughes scholars have treated Sylvia Plath. Some simply pretend that she never existed. Craig Robinson's 1989 monograph ignores Plath altogether, vvhile Nicholas Bishop's 1991 book on Hughes makes just one reference to her, and does so only for the purpose of providing a relative temporal and thematic context for Wodtvo. 6 Fe\v Hughes scholars have acknowledged the extent to \vhich Hughes makes Plath into his subject matter and draws on her \vork in his o\vn. Still fe\ver have argued for any reciprocity of influence and assistance benveen the two. It is difficult not to feel that a love of Hughes's "vork (and some form of relentless loyalty) leads many of Hughes's critics to deride Plath's \vriting and life. Hughes, the reasoning seems to go, cannot be good if she is not bad. One cannot help suspect, reading Keith Sagar's work, that Plath simply cannot do anything right. Even her taste in poetry must be disdained. Hence Hughes's' "Fire-Eater" ... seems to me a bad poem, though Sylvia Plath thought it the best poem in Lupercal'. Sagar's instinct seems to be to neutralise anything negative he \vishes to say about Hughes's "vork by ending on a note that finds fault with Plath. In opposite excess, Hughes 'is a good judge of his o\vn \vork'; he is a 'great poet' .7 Nicholas Bishop's single reference to Plath in his 1991 monograph comes in a book vvhose very first sentence is a grateful tribute to Hughes for his 'continual generosity in ans\vering all my queries, conversationally and by letter'.8 There is something personal in all this, though perhaps unavoidably so. The critic's feelings about Hughes, and his or her actual contact vvith him, become part of the making of the book. Ekbert Faas tells us vvith the passion ofsomeone converted, 'even our first three-hour discussion in March 1970 was enough to turn me from an admirer of his poetry into a witness of an interior saga'. 9 Hovvever irrelevant to her revievv of Birthday Letters, Heather Neill cannot resist parading her own meaningful exchange \vith Hughes, who 'recommended Lorca's essay about "duende" to me' .10 Ekbert Faas's essay 'Chapters in a Shared Mythology' is vvorth looking at closely, for it typifies a po\verful strand of Hughes criticism. Faas's piece declares that its central aim is to evaluate the t\VO poets together.Yet 'Chapters in a Shared Mythology' is misleadingly titled. A 177
A WAY OF GETTING THE POEMS
\vork that promises a fair consideration of the exchanges bet\veen Hughes's and Plath's \vork proves to be quite something else. Instead, Faas argues that Hughes succeeds \vhere Plath fails. A reference in his last paragraph to 'Hughes's development and how it stems from Sylvia Plath's'! 1 is baffling, or perhaps disingenuous, because Faas argues instead that Plath's \vriting, like her life, stalled or reached an impasse. Hughes, by Faas's invidious contrast, 'nlakes real \vhat in "Lady Lazarus" and other of Plath's poems remains an ineffectual gesture'.12 In Hughes, Faas tells us, the 'demonisation of the female \vhich in "Lady Lazarus" or "Purdah" remains a largely histrionic gesture, has reached a forcefulness reminiscent of Euripides' The Bacchae'.13 Along these same lines, Faas believes that 'Hughes avoids the facile rebirth symbolism of poems like Plath's early "Wreath for a Bridal" '.14 The failures (in Faas's judgement) of Plath's poetry are attributed to her lived inadequacies: 'Plath's sojourn on the other side of sanity and life had left traces not to be erased by a mere ne\¥ philosophy of life'. 15 By contrast, Hughes's personal life is never used by Faas to explain Hughes's \vriting. The sole 'facts' of Hughes's life to \vhich Faas refers are those \vhich demonstrate the poet's generosity to\vards Plath. Given the advantages afforded her by this generosity, Faas insinuates that Plath's failures as a poet and \voman seem all the greater. Hughes 'encouraged his \vife ... by hypnotising her', 'taught Plath not to read novels and poems only', and 'Even more crucial \vas Hughes' role in freeing her imagination and hence unleashing her vvorst nightmares' .16 This is a familiar narrative: Plath herself alludes to it in her journals and correspondence, and Hughes repeats the story in Birthday Letters. I cannot and would not \vish to dispute it, but I would wish to highlight the very different treatments of the tvvo \vriters by one critic. By contrast, what has Plath given Hughes? According to Faas, they share a theme of rebirth, but Hughes' o\ves little to direct borro\ving'!7 and Plath has only affected him through 'subliminal transference' .18 Faas displays an unselfconscious confusion about just what confessionality may be. He tangles his arguments and unfairly \vields t\VO very different methodologies. 'Though hardly confessional in content', he \vrites, 'Plath's mature poetry stems from a clearly biographical impulse' .19 Faas speaks as though 'confessional' and 'biographical impulses' are entirely unrelated, and assumes his readers \vill also find the distinction transparent. Unlike Plath, Hughes has not fared badly at the hands of his own critics. Take for instance M. L. Rosenthal's malicious comparisons of Plath to superior male poets in his essay 'Sylvia Plath and Confessional 178
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Poetry'. Rosenthal denies Plath's 'technical' and 'intellectual' abilities, and emphasises her attention to the personal. His account of Plath's use of personal material is a mainstream critical vievv: Plath's 'range of technical resources "vas narro"\ver than Robert Lo"\vell's, and so, apparently, \vas her capacity for intellectual objectivity.... She chose ... the one alternative advance position to Lowell's along the dangerous confessional \vay, that of literally committing her o"vn predicaments in the interests of her art until the one \vas so involved in the other that no return \vas possible'. 20 By contrast, Hughes scholars, while occasionally and tentatively alluding to links betvveen his life and work, stick largely to the latter. Thomas West briefly states that 'the eloquence of his laments ... in WOdtllO ... suffices in the "vay of personal testimony'21 about Plath's suicide. West says no more than this, and othenvise esche"\vs biographical correlations in his study of Hughes. A handful of Hughes's critics have read his poems biographically, though usually hesitantly, and under the pretence that they are doing something else altogether. Leonard M. Scigaj argues that WoduJo (1967) presents 'no direct biographical referents' ,22 though Scigaj does assert that Rernains of El111et (1979) is Hughes's o"vn 'tvvo-way journey', "vhich partly consists of ,releasing the spirits of Edith Farrar Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and other departed relatives into a heaven ... '.23 Scigaj describes poem 19 of Gaudete as Hughes's first direct treatment of Plath's suicide, almost a decade and a half after the event. . .. The number three refers to the third death alluded to in Plath's 'Lady Lazarus,' after her father's death "vhen she was eight (1940) 'and her first, unsuccessful suicide attempt "vhile an undergraduate at Smith College (1953). The Hughes poem continues "vith the persona kissing the Goddess's (Plath's) forehead in the morgue, in a mood that combines deep sadness "vith infinite tenderness. 24 With respect to Plath's work, such a biographical autopsy is familiar. To read Hughes's \vork by means of a literary post-mortem, so that every element of the poem must be attached to some real event or thought, is similarly limiting. 25 It is significant that only in relation to Plath and her death does Scigaj engage in such a reductive \vay of reading Hughes; Scigaj's \vork is other"vise careful and illuminating. Possibly, even. unconsciously, Scigaj has absorbed the notion that Plath is free territory. Else\vhere, he avoids biographical criticism. 179
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Dennis Walder acknowledges a 'remarkable, and intensely productive partnership'26 bet\veen Hughes and Plath, but \varns that, Inevitably, there is a strong temptation to link the poetry of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, \vhich shares an extremism, an insistence· on facing the worst. But it is a temptation to be resisted since, as Plath herself remarked, 'we vvrite poems that are as distinct and different as our fingerprints themselves must be.' More important here is the link betvveen what happened to Plath and its effect upon the development of Hughes's poetry.27 Walder asserts also that 'Hughes is not, like Plath and some of her American mentors (such as Robert Lowell), a "confessional" poet, tracing his own life and circumstances explicitly in his work'. 28 Seemingly contradicting this denial of Hughes's confessionality, Walder later vvrites that Hughes's 'Heptonstall Cemetery'29 'itemises the poet's personal attachments (which include Sylvia Plath), as it suggests their immortalisation' .30 For Walder, Plath's confessionality is a stable given. Hughes, on the other hand, is not confessional in one breath, yet is in the next. Walder's \vork is sensitive, but exemplifies a conundrum of contradictory assertions and denials in \vhich even excellent scholars can find themselves caught \vhen considering confessionality - and especially the alleged confessionality of Hughes or Plath.
Hughes's Story Whether or not the publication of Birthday Letters \villiead scholars to treat the issue of Hughes's o\vn supposed confessionality with less delicacy, and less paradox, remains to be seen. When Birthday Letters first appeared, commentary on the book vvas largely the province of journalists. Perhaps influenced by old stories, and by the frequent references to 'Daddy' in Birthday Letters itself, the press largely reiterated the stereotypes of Plath as a mad woman whose marriage fell apart because she loved her father too much and was obsessed \vith death. This is not surprising given the fact that such a story is likely to sell newspapers. Heather Neill wrote: 'After her death - and perhaps, for her, before that - "Daddy" and Hughes became synonymous, a fact acknowledged here in "A Picture ofOtto"'.31 To speak of Plath and 180
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Hughes, the front cover of the Sunday Ti,-nes books section invoked a tabloid rhetoric of soap opera violence and 'true life' stories of disputes bet\veen sports heroes and their wives. 'Fatal Attraction', 32 screamed its headline in red ink. Ironically, Birthday Letters advertises itself as confessional poetry \vith a certainty that Plath's so-called autobiographical poems never have. The poems, announces the blurb inside the front cover of Birthday Letters, 'are addressed, with just t\VO exceptions, to Sylvia Plath' .33 Yet the 'you', the 'Plath' so incessantly addressed by Hughes's speaker, is a poetic character \vho is no more stable or real as 'Plath' than the object of any intensely felt love poem- or love letter. And Birthday Letters, in spite of its title, wriggles out of any simple definition as poem or letter. Like a letter, these poems are spoken to somebody else. Unlike a letter, their object can never read or hear them. Perhaps this makes no difference. As Terry Eagleton has shown so convincingly, those \vho \vrite letters can be more preoccupied \vith talking to themselves than with the person they are addressing. Eagleton explains: Writing as communication threatens to become a mere" pretext for \.vriting as invention, the sober end sheer occasion for self-gratifying means .... Writing must officially have a point, as self-exhortation or moral aide-tnenl0ire; even where it is self-communion, and so prone to the dangers of narcissism, it must mime a public 'compact' , provide a mirror before \vhich the author may unite with an 'ideal ego'.34 Self-exhortation, memory aid, moral investigation, inner examination, private communication made public - Birthday Letters might be described as any or all of these. Reading the poems carefully, it is hard to imagine that Hughes himself would have quibbled with these descriptions. Above all, he seems to invite such an account of the poems as subjective. We have seen again and again in this book how slippery any biographical truth can be, how almost anything that is said or written reveals more about the person \vho speaks than about the one who is spoken of. This is not less true of a letter or a poem than it is of a biography. Hughes himself is self-conscious about his own narrative fallibility in Birthday Letters. The first line of the collection's first poem begins \.vith a question that dramatises the struggle to dredge up memory: 'Where was it, in the Strand?'35 At the outset, Hughes foregrounds the imperfect process of recollecting past events. This gesture of discounting his o\.vn 181
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authority is repeated in the collection's second poem, whose first line also begins vvith uncertainty, with a question: 'What \vere those caryatids bearing?'36 Birthday Letters is filled vvith questions - questions that are symptomatic of Hughes's unease about freezing the past categorically, or speaking for those who may have experienced it differently. The book is distinguished by Hughes's disinclination to petrify his own contradictory and changing thoughts. 'Was that a happy day?'37 he asks at the start of 'Flounders'. 'What did they mean to you, the azalea flo\vers?' he \vonders at the beginning of ' Child's Park'.38 'You needed an earth', he declares in 'The Rag Rug', before recanting any certainty about his o\vn judgement \vith the next vvord: 'Maybe'.39 This constant questioning, this refusal of anyone meaning or privileged viewpoint, may be the source of Birthday Letters' po\ver. Even on those occasions vvhere I resist Hughes's stories or interpretations, he buys my tolerance because he o\vns them as partial. Birthday Letters is dotted \vith tentativeness about fact. Again and again the poems disclaim any pretence of absolute truth. In 'Fidelity' he \vonders \vhether to feel jealous of or sorry for himself.4o In'18 Rugby Street' he confesses, 'I cannot renlember ! Ho\¥ I smuggled myself, vvrapped in you, I Into the hotel' .41 These lines dramatise the tangled excitement of lovers, and the difficulty of committing to memory the precise choreography of an unfolding physical encounter. More literally, these lines admit the slippery nature of the past, and the imperfection of reflection. Hesitant \vords and questioning syntax are a striking feature of the first half of Birthday Letters, as if to emphasise Hughes's position as a vvitness \vho can only describe the \:vay things appeared from one vantage point. It is at the moments \vhere Hughes seems to forget this that I like the poems less. More often than not, though, Hughes seems to say, I can only provide my ovvn interpretation, I am rarely sure of anything: 'It did seenl IYou disturbed something just perfected';42 your tears 'tnight have been tears ofjoy, a squeeze ofjoy'43 (my italics). One of the Birthday Letters poems, 'A Short Film', is explicit about the problem of memory: the human inability to anticipate the importance of an event, and pay attention \vhile it happens. Therefore, vve do not record these events for history, or if \ve do, \ve cannot understand their full implications. We certainly cannot control the vvay such evidence vvill be used. The hOllie movie of Hughes's poem . .. had been nlade for happy remembering By people vvho "vere still too young To have learned about memory. 182
The film, over time, becomes a 'dangerous \.veapon' ,44 something \.vhich can be anatomised for the roots of inevitable tragedy, for the pathology of its star (the dancing child), or to criticise the parents \.vho made it. Reviewers, in spite of the many cues to read Birthday Letters as a fallible set of recollections, have professed that Hughes, at last, has told his story. He has given them a heavy dose of indisputable fact: 'Some Home Truths About Sylvia Plath', 45 as one headline succinctly put it. 46 In Howls & Whispers, that limited edition of Birthday Letters poems not published in Birthday Letters, those \.vho treat poems as biography \.vill find fresh material. At this point in time, \.ve can only speculate as to \.vhy Hughes published these poems separately, and in such an obscure edition. In their chronology and subject matter, the HOUJls & vVhispers poems could easily be \.voven into the fabric of Birthday Letters. I'd go so far as to suggest that there are gaps in Birthday Letters, gaps that can only be filled by the poems in HOUJls & Whispers. My theory is that Hughes held the poems back because they dramatise greater extremes of emotions and interpretation than anything in Birthday Letters. Erica Wagner tells us in Ariel's Gift that 'another poem, "The Laburnum'" ,47 appeared in the contents page of the first proof of Birthday Letters that she sa\.v in her role as Literary Editor of The Titnes, \vhich serialised some of the poems just before the book came out. In the end, 'The Laburnum' appeared in HOlvls & Whispers, and not in Birthday Letters. This indicates that Hughes may have decided to hold the poem back, and other or all of the HOUJls & Whispers poems, at the last minute. As far as supposedly confessional\.vriting goes, Hughes may have regarded the 'confessions' in Houlis & Whispers as more sensational than those in Birthday Letters. Perhaps he did not feel ready to go public with them in any large \vay. Perhaps some day there \vill be a posthumous edition in which all the poems \.vill be printed together and entwined; Hughes may have left instructions for this, and a record of an intended order, just as Plath left evidence of the sequence she had planned for Ariel. Birthday Letters and HOlvIs & Whispers are noteworthy for their alm~st novelistic natures. That is to say, both books develop the long story of a relationship over time, a story that is stronger, in a way, than death, and does not end with the death of one of the doomed lovers. Hughes divides his poems not just into verses and stanzas, but also sometimes sets them out in \.vhat has the appearance and purpose of prose paragraphs, beginning a new idea or turn of his thought on a fresh, indented line. This narrative quality, as \.vell as the fame of the Hughes and Plath myth, has undoubtedly been a strong factor in the huge 183
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readership that Birthday Letters has attracted (it "vas the third highest selling hardback book of 1998 in Britain48). As in Birthday Letters also, Hughes questions the reality of events as he remembers them and stresses the fictional aspect of any account he can give. Recall Hughes's \vry observation in Birthday Letters that 'It is only a story. /Your story. My story', 49 an idea that resonates in Hotvls & vVhispers too. Hughes reminds the reader that historical events cannot be made into reliable facts by anybody, even those who lived them, but that they nonetheless had material effects on real human beings. It seems mean to criticise Hughes for inconsistency as he moves between anger, distress, love, and self-justification, ho\vever much the reader may, at given moments, think irritably, 'Oh \vhy bring Daddy into it again?' or, 'Can't "ve ease up on the belief in fate?' These contradictory perspectives are likely to excite compassion. Who does not have such ambivalent thoughts about those they love and lose? Yet \vho is also brave enough, and intelligent enough, to admit their compromised position? The fact that Hughes does both is \vhat makes it likely that Birthday Letters and HouAs & Whispers will endure. Both books are filled with startling, surprising lines. Think for instance of the end of the Birthday Letters poem 'The Shot'. Here, the be\vildered narrator sees his troubled lover as a bullet, and sadly, guiltily muses that someone else Might have caught you in flight vvith his bare hands, Tossed you, cooling, one hand to the other, Godless, happy, quieted. I managed A wisp of your hair, your ring, your watch, your nightgo\vn. 50 There is tenderness here, and immense sorro\v. These emotions feel larger, more permanent, than any biography we can reduce the poem to, any story we can make it fit. Birthday Letters and HOlvls & J-Vhispers both \vork at their best when they are not authoritative, and \vhen they are kind in their memories of Plath, rather than angry or looking for someone or something else to blame. It is interesting that Hughes privileges the poem 'Howls & Whispers' by giving its name to the collection as a whole. Is this a way of disclaiming responsibility for the content and nature of the poems? Or is it an attempt to anticipate any reservations readers may have about the book, and nullify them in the same breath? Is it a \vay of saying, I cannot be held responsible for this in artistic, moral, or intellectual 184
terms? Is it a way of saying, these poems are not poems? They are ho\vls and whispers, cries and words spoken at the extreme poles of loudness and softness. Ho\vls and whispers do not get through to those at \vhom they are aimed because they are garbled or indecipherable. Moreover, Hughes's do not get through to the \voman to \vhom they are spoken because she is dead. Is it a way of saying, because howls and whispers are not forms of communication that are effective at getting the message across, and are often discounted as illegitimate because they are uncontrolled and emotional, you cannot criticise or canonise me on the basis of this content? Too little control, too much emotion: these are phrases, or accusations, frequently levelled against Plath's \vriting, and Plath herself. This raises yet another question. Who is ho\vling and \vhispering, Hughes or Plath, speaker or spoken to? The ans"\ver, as I think Hughes must have meant it to be, is surely both. If \ve turn to 'Howls & Whispers' itself, we find a poem that is about miscommunication. It is a poem of letters \vithin letters, in which Hughes describes and quotes from the correspondence of Plath's friends and family during the months and \veeks before she died. Whispers, in this poem, take on another meaning. They are nasty and unsubstantiated bits of gossip that do harm. The letters are about Hughes and the breakdown of the relationship, but not to him. They are letters that Plath left for hinl to find and read after she \vas dead. Terry Eagleton is again helpful here. Writing, and especially epistolary writing, he reminds us, is a matter of record and contract, seal and bond, tangible documentation \vhich may be turned against its author, cited out of context, deployed as threat, testimony, blackmail. It is the 'iterability' of script - the fact that its materiality allows it to be reproduced in changed conditions - which makes it such an efficient instrument of oppression. The free utterance of the heart, once taken do\vn in writing, may al\vays be used later in evidence against the speaker. 51 'Howls &Whispers"operates through an especially complex arrangement of fiction, real letters, and poetry. It illustrates how letters can indeed 'be used later in evidence against the speaker' and 'reproduced in changed conditions' , even read by someone for \vhom your words were not intended (in this case, the last person for vvhom your words vvould have been intended). Knowing this, Hughes made sure before he died 185
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that HOUJ!s & vVhispers itself could not be reproduced in changed conditions. 52 To retain my discussion of HOlills & J¥h ispers, I have excised all quotations from the poems and replaced them \vith paraphrase. This is never a satisfactory thing to do. Rewording someone else's poetry inevitably results in distortion and robs the reader of the opportunity to make his or her o\vn judgements about the \rvork. I hope that readers will bear \vith me for the next fe\v pages, and that at the very least this discussion will make them \rvant to seek out one of the 110 copies of Howls and Whispers to see the poems at firsthand. In 'Ho\vls & Whispers', Hughes is explicit about his resentment of and anger to\vards Plath's mother. He alleges that Mrs Plath wrote to her daughter, urging her to revenge herself against him by taking his money, and that Mrs Plath celebrated the end of her child's relationship to a man \vhom she regarded as a piece of dirt or a germ, of \vhom she never approved. Plath's analyst instructed her in a letter \vritten on 26 September 1962 to 'Keep him out of your bed'. 53 Hughes puts this very phrase into 'Ho\vls & Whispers'. These \rvords of Plath's mother and therapist might be regarded as the passionately protective and angry statements of those \rvho felt great loyalty to\,vards her; those vvho loved her. Ugly as they may be, unfair or partisan as they may be, they are typical of the supportive rage family and friends feel for a loved one \vhose relationship has broken do\vn. Ho\v \vould your best friend or mother or sister or brother speak of your husband or \vife or lover if your relationship had ended in an ugly, unhappy vvay? Fe\rv of us could assert that they would behave vvith balance, \vith circumspection. There is no right or wrong here. Understandably, Hughes \vas not in a position to look on these comments \vith equanimity. His rage at discovering these remarks, at catching these women talking behind his back, is also part of a familiar human story, and one in \vhich most of us have participated. Yet Hughes can express a sad and wry recognition that he and Plath, rather than speak to each other, had only these variously misguided, \vell-meaning, self-interested and misinformed advisers. The howls and vvhispers circulate. They are not just Plath's and Hughes's, but are the untrust\vorthy and ineffectual (or perniciously effectual) cries and innuendoes of family and friends too. Hughes insinuates, but does not name, those \vho needed to playa role in the drama, \rvhatever the cost, for instance the messenger or negotiator vvho \vanted to shovv off to herself and other people that she \vas a central player as the crisis bet\veen the couple unfolded. For Hughes, this \voman lost her humanity. He envisions her in the poem as an insect betvveen his sheets, or crouching by Plath's side to gain her confidence 186
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and poison her thoughts. Such people, the narrator claims, are responsible for Plath's death. This story (that 'they' did it, or drove Plath to her death) is no more convincing than the more familiar story that Hughes did. Only the grief and anger and need to blame someone else make sense; they are the only true thing. Any sense of biographical fact becomes more slippery in the final four poems of the collection, \vhich advertise the contingency of the relationship bet\veen vvords and events. Like the collection's title, these last poems seem to warn us: do not trust vvhat \ve say; vvedo not speak of the quantifiable; \ve cannot be held accountable for this. These opaque poems are not so much about any events concerning Plath's death as they are about her afterlife. In them, Plath might be described as a ghost vvho takes different forms. Intimacy between Hughes and Plath cannot be ended by death in the vvorld of Hotvls & Whispers. We \vill see that this closeness takes the form of imaginary conversations, dreams, and even Hughes's encounter with Plath's ghost. In 'The City', Hughes imagines Plath's poems as the centre ofa dark to\vn, vvhile her prose forms its outskirts. There is a value judgement here, in \vhich the poems matter more than the prose suburbs. This city is populated by academics and devotees. At night Hughes wanders through it all reading Plath's work, or thinking about it. Occasionally he glimpses a lost-looking Plath. Grown old, she freezes as if in a nightmare and searches faces in the hope that she will find someone she kno\vs. The implication is that Plath is present in her writing, but not easily recognised, and not cognizant herself. She is distorfed and changed. She is uncertain and confused, even frightened. Plath does not exist in any stable or perfect form in this \vriting, this city. Hughes dramatises her tendency to slip away: the complex relationship betvveen life and \vork, identity and writing. I have argued that 'Howls & Whispers', through its very title, cautions us to treat with circumspection any 'messages' in Hughes's poems about Plath. 'Ho\vls & Whispers' \varns us to take note of the sort of language \ve are hearing, a language we may not be able to discern and then interpret accurately: involuntary 'ho\vls' or untrustworthy 'vvhispers'. The poem asks us to treat these cries and murmurs accordingly. 'The City', \vith its representation of Plath's shape shifting, echoes this warning. So does the poem that follows it, 'Moon-Dust', \vhere \ve again see ho\v elusive 'Plath' can be, and ho\v full of holes stories are, even when told by those who lived them. The poem's first stanza describes the numerous and at least once-removed \vays that \ve access stories: vve hear or read about them second-hand 187
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instead of hearing or reading them ourselves; we conjecture rather than know or experience directly. Plath's narrative is compared to a moon full of craters. On this moon Hughes's own story sits, small and precarious. From it he can only retrieve a small number of stones, using tongs. Even Hughes cannot touch directly; he himself must mediate his contact with Plath's story through an instrument - tongs - even where, or especially where, this story touches his o\vn. Here, Hughes the narrator disclaims any myth of his o\vn free access or perfect understanding: he examines the rocks, as if searching for information and comprehension that he does not inherently possess. Hughes likens himself to a flower that rests lightly on the rocks as a breeze bends and s\vays it. As far as his own authority and comprehension about Plath's story is concerned, he is vulnerable and unstable, blo\vn by the wind, subject to forces outside himself, and only achieving fleeting, imperfect contact. In the final analysis, Hughes's self-consciousness about the vagaries of his own subjectivity is moving and modest. It is a stance that Hughes repeats in his mysterious poem 'The Offers', which was published in the Sunday Tifnes ten days before his o\vn death. 54 In 'The Offers', Plath is a ghost who haunts Hughes on the tube, in her home, as he steps into his bath. 'The Offers' is positioned late in the sequence of Houds & Vf7hispers; it is the penultimate poem. HouJls & Whispers carefully builds up Hughes's rhetorical tendency to indicate (or inadvertently reveal) doubt. Therefore, the impact of uncertainty in 'The Offers'is stronger \vhen the poem is read as part of the collection than when it is read in isolation. Such indefiniteness is indicated especially with the word see111ed, which evokes the dream-like, mysterious and supernatural state of affairs of which the poem speaks. Seenled is one of those words (like perhaps and appears and evidently and 1naybe) that people use when they don't want to take responsibility for what they are saying, or when they want to signpost indeterminacy. Seelned is a sort of get-out clause. In 'The Offers' it appears five times, and signals Hughes's awareness of his imperfect ability to perceive, to make sense of \vhat he sees and trust it. He uses seerned when speaking about Plath herself, his memories of her, and his fantasies about her. 'The Offers'is a riddle poem. What is Plath offering? What does she mean \vhen she startles Hughes on her third and final visit, as he lowers himself into the bath? These lines are especially difficult to paraphrase, but she tells him in the pressing, imperious voice he knows so well that she will make no more appearances, and! or he will not have another chance and therefore must not fail her. Readers and critics \vill have 188
their own theories and debates about vvhat 'The Offers' 'means' .Yet if Hughes himself rightly refuses authority over meaning and perception in this poem, ho\v can we assert these \vith any confidence? I can offer my o"vn interpretation of \vhat those offers might be - not to do so vvould be a cop out - but I do this tentatively, even shyly. Those offers may have been a promise of reincarnation (note my own 'may have been' - and my 'might have felt' and 'could be' in the next sentences). I think \vhat Hughes might have felt Plath was saying was that she \vas coming back, though in \vhat form I cannot tell. Or the poem may be about reincarnation of a different and less othenvorldly kind: it could be that Plath is asking Hughes to readmit her into 'life' by speaking publicly, by publishing his poems about her. With the strengths of Hughes's declarations of uncertainty comes weakness, for at times Hughes risks a poetic voice that is inflexibly authoritarian and Bardic. Judging from the poems to and about Plath, Hughes appears to have a two-pronged notion of what writing is. Writing is a sacred vocation, and this is an immense claim to make for \vriting. The poet is seen, or sees himself, as a sort of priest "vho speaks to a reverent and grateful public. He attempts to use his art to renew dying myths for a tribe (his readers) that has gro\vn alienated from its beliefs and stories. (Craig Robinson has stressed this Bardic aspect of Hughes by calling his book Ted Hughes as Shepherd of Being - \vhere Hughes's readers are presumably the sheep.) Paradoxically, \vriting is limited in what it can say and who it can reach, because its purpose is to find words for one's own feelings and perceptions. Hughes's is certainly an idiosyncratic vocabulary. He aligns his story with myth in Birthday Letters and HOUJ[s & Whispers. Some readers and critics may accuse him of mistaking a private rhetoric for a public one, using mythological references (for instance to Frigga and Loki in the last poem of HOH/fs & Whispers, 'Superstitions') as if everyone would recognise them, and adopting a mono-logic tone that owes much to D. H. La\vrence. By mono-logic, I mean that despite Hughes's admirable refusal to claim authority about facts and truth, Hughes nonetheless uses a voice that does not admit of interruption, and is thereby authoritarian (in a sense, any form of writing or speech whose audience cannot answer back is authoritarian in this way).
Birthday Letters has been applauded by critics, and deservedly so. Whether this admiration has always come for the right reasons, ho"v-ever, is debatable. Possibly, this extreme feeling has prevented readers from looking carefully at the work itself, as it has vvith Plath's. In the 189
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months just after the publication of Birthday Letters, a tacit emotional blackmail operated. Hughes, the blackmail reasoned, has spoken, at last. He has spoken of deep pain. It vvould be churlish to use anything less than overstated praise vvhen discussing this \vriting. Sarah Maguire, in an othervvise intelligent and temperate review, concludes that Birthday Letters is 'the most moving and vital book vvritten by the greatest living English poet'. 55 'It seems inappropriate, sacrilegious almost', Heather Nej)l gushes in a similar vein, 'to respond to Birthday Letters in ordinary limping prose'. 56 There is a consensus that it vvould be unseemly to rate BirthdaJl Letters as anything less than 'a great book',s7 or make the poems accountable to the usual critical questions. Karl Miller can ackno\vledge that Birthday Letters 'is ... a vvork of art, and none the less so for being personal', 58 but still stops short of evaluating Hughes's poems as art, or in terms that extend beyond the biographically descriptive. Edna Longley has been a rare dissenting voice in her assessment of Birthday Letters. 'There is crude, bad vvriting' in it, she asserts, vvondering, 'Is Hughes's reputation being talked up in some mysteriously collective \vay, and to hell \vith critical judgement, to hell with poetry ("The press \vas squared I The feminists were quite prepared")?'59 Longley seems to be suggesting here that Birthday Letters \vas cynically released at a moment, and in a manner, that ensured its positive reception, so that even Hughes's former enemies (the 'feminists') could be manipulated into adulation. Undoubtedly, reaction to Birthday Letters has been strong, approval close to unanimous. But to imply that an omnipotent Hughes has set all this up as a sort of largescale exercise in brain\vashing is cheap and ridiculous. Who, after all, can predict and control the press to this extent? Critical and journalistic responses to Birthday Letters are \vorth examining, but surely Hughes himself cannot be held personally responsible for them? It is an affecting (though some may say entirely coincidental) fact that Hughes died from cancer ten months after the publication of Birthday Letters, on 28 October 1998, the day after Plath's birthday. (I must confess that I cannot think of these dates as mere chance. My o\vn tendency to find stories \vhere I can, and make things up, tempts me to imagine that Hughes \vaited until 27 October was over before he died, so he could leave Plath's birthday as her birthday, and not take it over as his death day.) With hindsight, we might describe the critical glorification of the Birthday Letters poems, their privileging over some of Hughes's other important \vork, and the reluctance of critics to submit Birthday Letters to the usual critical questions, as a sort of collective and premature funeral eulogy. Since Hughes's actual death, 190
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this trend has only accelerated, as the title of one ne"\vspaper article recognised: 'The Rise and Rise of Ted Hughes, Deceased' .60 When discussing the 1998 Whitbread Poetry Award, and the likelihood that Birthday Letters "\vould "\vin this as "\vell as the Whitbread Book of the Year Award, Faber and Faber's chairman Matthe"\v Evans went so far as to declare, "'It almost seems churlish not to give him an a"\vard'" .61 (Birthday Letters did indeed "\vin the Whitbread Poetry A"\vard, and went on to "\vin the Whitbread Book of the Year, as well as the T. S. Eliot Prize.) I am not suggesting that Birthday Letters did not deserve to "\vin these a"\vards. Rather, I am suggesting that the criteria should be those of literary merit. Victory and esteem should not. come from an explicit blackmail that it vvould be 'churlish' - ill-mannered or insensitive - not to honour a given book. And Hughes himself might have had reservations about the "\vays Birthday Letters has been discussed. Few serious writers want literary acclaim out of obligation or charity; they want literary acclaim because they have "\vritten good books.
The Reciprocity of Influence between P lath and Hughes To deny that Hughes influenced Plath "\vould be absurd. On the other hand, fe"\v of Hughes's critics allo"\v that influence can move in the other direction, from Plath to Hughes. Not many acknowledge the reciprocity betvveen the t"\vo. Unusually, Valentine Cunningham goes some "\vay tovvards conceding such interplay \vhen he asks, 'Does her "Sow" , for instance, feed his "View of a Pig" or vice versa?'62 But \vith his implied assumption that one poem must have decidedly preceded and then influenced the other Cor vice versa?') Cunningham vvants to settle the question of what carne first. For me, this influence is rarely of one poet or poem over the other, but much more mutual, dynamic, and complex in its string of causes and associations, as Erica Wagner has repeatedly ackno\vledged in Ariel's Gift. In The Art ofTed Hughes, Keith Sagar makes a comment that goes against much of what has been said about Plath's tendency to use other poets as her template. He states that Plath was·' on the whole, resistant to influences', though he makes an exception for Hughes himself as Plath's role model. Sagar states that 'His "\vas the stronger, surer poetic voice, and the immediate effect "\vas of ventriloquism' .63 For Sagar, Plath's 'Spinster' is a 'variation on' Hughes's 'Secretary' and 'echoes the 191
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vocabulary' of Hughes's 'Fallgrief's Girl-friends'64 (all of these poems \vere \vritten in 1956). Sagar argues that Plath's 1956 poem 'Strumpet Song' concludes 'with a passage of pure Hughes, the wrenched syntax, the savage consonants, the pounding monosyllables'. In a language that verges on accusing Plath of violence, Sagar \vrites that she' seized on "Vievv of a Pig", "The Green Wolf", "Out" and several other poems in VVOdtvo' (my emphasis).6sYet the dates that Sagar plays vvith are suspect, for Hughes was reading Plath's work before they actually met at the St BotolphJs Review party in February of 1956,66 just as she \vas reading his. 67 The Hughes poems that Sagar accuses Plath of ,seizing on' for 'Strumpet Song' are actually dated later than Plath's poem. This is not to say that Hughes's poems could not have been \vritten earlier, but rather to stress that Plath and Hughes were \vriting alongside each other. The question of vvhich poet took what from vvhom cannot be resolved with any certainty. The qualities of'Strumpet Song' described by Sagar as 'pure Hughes' might just as readily be seen as 'pure' Plath (if you accept such extremism at all). Gifford and Roberts are generous in their ability to credit Plath vvithout fearing they have somehovv slighted Hughes. 'The mutual influence bet\veen Sylvia Plath and himself', they \vrite, 'contributed importantly to the development of both poets: it seems to us likely that the greater rhythmical freedom, compression and elliptical language of Hughes's poetry from "Wodwo onwards owes something to the example of Sylvia Plath's later \vork' .68 Scigaj establishes a textual link between Plath and Hughes without feeling the need to attribute to one at the expense of the other. He alludes to Gaudete's '''baboon beauty face, I A crudely stitched patchwork of faces" - as in "The Disquieting Muses," the surrealist painting by de Chirico that inspired Plath's eerie poem of the same title' .69 The difficulty of pinpointing origin and echo is apparent if we flook at the similarities between 'Lady Lazarus' (October 1962) and Hughes's radio play 'The Wound',7o vvhich 'was first broadcast by the BBC ... on 1st February 1962' .71 Similarly, Hughes's 'Cro\v's Song About England'72 (1971) and Plath's 'The Detective' (October 1962) find textual and structural mirrors in each other. A simple chronological logic \vould have it that 'Lady Lazarus' borrowed from 'The Wound', and 'Cro\v's Song About England' from 'The Detective'.Yet this would be crude and misleading. When two poets live and work together for as long as Plath and Hughes did, it would be ludicrous to assume that because one piece appears before another it was actually composed first. Conversations and influence can pass unrecorded. The fact that 192
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Plath was the first to \vrite something do\vn does not preclude the possibility that Hughes's idea or suggestion prompted her to do so, or vice versa. It is less important to determine who or \vhat came first, than to identify the reverberation and evaluate it; the poems are best regarded as fragments of a continuing conversation. We have seen already that 'The Detective' can be read as an environmentalist poem. The detective narrator implies that the missing woman has been regarded as a pest or germ, and that she has been eradicated like the victim of chemical or radioactive poison. Dangerous substances have passed between her body and the larger ecosystem. The poem's last line reads, 'There is only a cro\v in a tree. Make notes'. 73 'Cro\v's Song About England' might be those 'notes'. It is as if the cro\v has flown from the tree, out of Plath's poem and into Hughes's, replacing the detective's investigative questions vvith the statements of a witness \vho is no less authoritative for his 'Once upon a time' beginning. Plath's detective can only piece together events from an aftermath, \vhile Hughes's cro\v has vvatched the drama unfold from the vantage point of his tree. Hughes's crow confirms the detective's assumption that the assailant is male, and implicated in a crime that is not just of physical violence, but of emotional and domestic tyranny too. In 'The Detective' the female victim's assault stems from domestic intimacy and sexuality. This is also the case in 'Cro\v's Song About England'.Whether the \voman of Hughes's poem tries to 'give' the parts of her body and \vhat they symbolise, as she does in the first nine lines, or whether she tries to 'keep' them, as she does later, the result is the same. Her 'mouth' is 'snatched from her and her face slapped'. Her 'eyes' are 'knocked to the floor' and 'crushed' by the 'furniture'. Her 'breasts' are 'cut from her and canned' . Her' cunt' is 'produced in open court she was sentenced I She did life'.7 4 The pun is at least triple here. Most obviously, 'She did life' suggests a prison sentence. It also means the very opposite. To 'do life' is to enjoy and live it, to have sex with life, literally and metaphorically. Finally, \ve can read the pun at still another level of contradiction. 'She did life' implies also that she betrayed it, shunning the opportunities and privileges that being in this \vorld offers. The body parts in Hughes'S poem ('mouth' ,'eyes' ,'breasts', 'cunt'), and the creativity and sexuality \ associated with them, are like those described in Plath's 'The Detective'. 'The Detective' gives us the woman's 'insatiable' 'mouth' cut and 'hung out' as punishment for its hungers and words, its taking in and giving out. Her breasts are also dispensed with, and, in the end, her entire body is vaporised. 193
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If critics have at times unfairly read Plath's poetry as hostile to men, they have been just as ready to charge Hughes \-vith misogyny in his representations of \vomen. Since Plath's death, Hughes's position has not been an easy one. As Nathalie Anderson rightly puts it, 'That a chill exists separating Ted Hughes from the feminist ... community hardly needs documenting'. Yet as Anderson also notes, the designation of blame as Hughes's is not simply the province of feminists or Plath fans, or even unheard of in those who admire Hughes. 'This,' Anderson writes, 'for many quite ordinary, unimaginative, non-vindictive people, is the accepted wisdom: Hughes kills. Hughes is inimical - no, do\-vnright dangerous to \-vomen'.75 'Cro\v's Song About England', for its dialogue vvith 'The Detective', and for its seen"ling confirmation of the earlier poem's argument, allovvs us to see Hughes's \vriting differently. The conclusion of his poem, 'She did life', is as critical of the literal and symbolic deaths that domestic relationships exert upon vvomen as Plath's ovvn poem. Indeed, Hughes may have seen the female victim in his poem as Plath herself.
The Question of the Confessional Like those of many critics, Hughes's o\.vn comments about Plath's use of autobiography have been contradictory. Some might remark that this is odd considering his closeness to her. Others might come to the opposite conclusion: that such contradiction \-vas inevitable because of the closeness. On the subject of Plath, Hughes is at his strongest, I think, in his poetry, \vhere he foregrounds the unreliable nature of his claims, and does not pretend to speak impartially. Rather, he lets rip his side of the story, his love and anger, without apology. (Such an uncontrolled outpouring is just what Plath herself has so often been accused of.) There is no pretence in Hughes's poems that this is impersonal, businesslike, or professional. Yet the 'truth' is not to be found in his supposedly more trustworthy essays (trustworthy because expository). In these, Hughes is as mixed up as any of us. In his Introduction to the first American edition ofJohnny Panic and the Bible of Dreatns, Hughes wavers bet\veen convicting Plath of confessionality and denying that she uses the personal. Approximately six pages, or two-thirds, of this Introduction are cut from Faber's British edition of Johtltzy Panic. This material, though important, is seldom talked about. Hughes writes of Plath's attitude to\vards Devon, 'She 194
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planned to case the vvhole region, \vith the idea of accumulating details for future stories'. The description is of a criminal plotting her illicit thefts like a professional burglar. Hughes refers vvith a mixture of pity, scorn and impatience to Plath's 'laborious tenacity'76 over detail, and, in the guise of a compliment, says of her stories: They seem livelier novv, in some \vays, than they did \vhen she \vrote them. And their vitality comes from the very thing she "vas always striving to escape: the themes she found engaging enough to. excite her concentration all turn out to be episodes from her o\vn life; they are all autobiography. They have the vitality of her personal participation, her subjectivity.77 At this point in the Introduction Hughes appears to be praising autobiography as the very thing that makes Plath's writing vital. T\vo pages later, by contrast, he alludes to 'This limitation to actual circumstances, which is the prison of so much of her prose'. He asserts that in Plath's \vriting, 'The blunt fact killed any povver or inclination to rearrange it or see it differently' (retained in the Faber edition).78 Alnlost in the same breath, Plath is commended for the 'vitality' that came from using \vhat was real, then criticised for the dullness and 'limitation' of such material. Plath cannot vvin here. Her \vriting is faulted for its fidelity to the real - to too much fact - or deprecated for being insufficiently imaginative, too unoriginal, a sort of cheat. 'What is interesting novv about some of these descriptions is the \vay they fed into Ariel', Hughes argues. 'They are good evidence to prove that poems which SeelTI often to be constructed of arbitrary surreal symbols are really impassioned reorganizations of relevant fact ... A great many of these objects and appearances occur somevvhere or other in the journals.'79 The cumulative impact of "these contradictory comments is to suggest that Plath's vvriting does not deserve the high regard in which it is held. Even the Ariel poems can be disparaged, somehovv tainted by \vhat Hughes sees as the problems of the shorter prose pieces and their grounding in 'facts'. Hughes's attempts to control interpretation of Plath's vvork can be very direct. In his 1988 prose piece 'Sylvia Plath: The Evolution of "Sheep in Fog"', he attempts to pin do\vn the meaning of every \vord in Plath's poem, leaving no room for other interpretations. Contrast this \vith his hesitation about explaining Gaudete: 'My ovvn opinion I 195
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vvithhold.... As far as interpretation goes - I leave all options open'. 80 If Hughes's comments on confessionality have been inconsistent, this is certainly understandable. In an interview, he said: 'Poems come to you much more naturally and accumulate more life when they are part of a connected flow of real narrative that you've got yourself involved in'. 'So', the intervie\ver concluded from this, 'the underlying story vvould be some kind of autobiographical myth.' 'Why autobiographical? It's just a vvay of getting the poems', 81 Hughes replied. I have used this last phrase of Hughes's as the title of this chapter of my book, using it to signal Hughes's seeming impatience with this readiness to take his vvords as a licence to read narrative as personal myth. I have used it also to suggest that Plath's and Hughes's literary relationship was a \vay of getting poelllS, and an inevitable one at that, ho\vever impossible it may be for us, or even for them, to untangle the complex net\vork of influences. In Hughes's comments, the use of the personal can be admitted, but only pushed so far. It is less difficult, and perhaps less threatening, for Hughes to acknovvledge the poet's use of the personal when the poet is someone other than himself or Plath. Yeats's life is not the less interesting half of his general effort, and one wonders \vhat his poetry vvould amount to if it could be lifted clear of the biographical matrix. Quite a lot, no doubt. But hovv much less than at present! With poets who set their poetic selves further into the third person, maybe the life is less relevant. But [Dylan] Thomas's life, letters and legends belong to his poetry, in that they make it mean more. 82 These remarks are interesting given the appearance of Birthday Letters. Yeats, Hughes seems to say, is a better poet for his use of the personal, and we can appreciate his poetry better if we make meanings of it in this light. Without knowledge of the biographical facts, our understanding ofYeats \vould be impoverished, Hughes suggests. Yet ho\¥ do "ve know if a poet sets his or her 'poetic selves further into the third person', so that their 'life is less relevant'? What data and criteria are there to establish vvhat is 'real' in a given poem? A third person poem may be more strongly rooted in 'truth' and connected to the poet's life than a first person poem. We have access only to the "\vords on the page, and not the poet's brain. Notably, when Hughes speaks of Plath's use of the personal, it is to dovvngrade her poems, not to praise them, as he does "\vithYeats and Dylan Thomas. 196
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Before Birthday Letters What happens when Hughes himself turns to 'facts' to make his poetry? Hughes's more recent, self-declaringly confessional poems allo\v us to look at the question of Plath's supposed use of her o\vn life from a ne\v perspective.Yet the Birthday Letters poems are not new revelations. Eight of them appeared in 1995, in Hughes's NeUl Selected POefl1s. 83 The history of this publication, like the limited number of copies of H01Vls & Whispers, indicates that Hughes \vas reluctant'to publish poems about
Plath, and took care \vhen he did. Evidently, Hughes was highly ambivalent about the \vhole business, \vanting the poems to be out there, but (understandably) quailing at the exposure. Simon Armitage \vas one of the fe\v revie\vers to make the point that NeUl Selected PoenlS offers 'snippets of personal information'. Other than a brief but suggestive discussion of'The Earthen\vare Head', in which he observes that Hughes's sequence is 'reminiscent of Robert Lo\vell's poems about Jean Stafford', Armitage does not go into much detail about Hughes's use of the personal. Intriguingly, Armitage alerts us to the fact that the published version of NeuJ Selected Poe1ns includes material that did not appear in the proof copy sent to revie\vers. Perhaps the decision to put the Plath poems in the public domain was 'left until the eleventh hour',84 or perhaps Hughes kept them out of the revie\v copies so he could reduce the amount of publicity about the poems; reviews are usually written just before books come out. The publication of NeuJ Selected POel'l1S "vas an important moment in literary history, but Hughes was \vriting to and out of Plath's work long before its appearance in 1995. 'Narcissi', 'The Honey Bee' and 'Big Poppy' (1986)85 are only a few of a number of poems in which Hughes rewrites Plath's o\vn flo\ver and bee poems to engage \vith her arguments against individualism and comment upon her death. 'You Hated Spain' refers to Hughes's honeymoon \vith Plath. The poem appeared even earlier than the 1995 Netv Selected Poerns, in 1982, in Hughes's Selected Poems: 1951-1981. Dennis Walder has ackno\vledged, with the tentativeness that characterised the pre-Birthday Letters days, that the poem is 'evidently addressed' to Plath. 86 Yet 'You Hated Spain' is interesting for reasons that go beyond biography. It plays out the tensions and attractions bet\veen Hughes's versions of working-class masculinity and Plath's o\vn ideas about class and national identity. 'You Hated Spain' also sets up a crude polarity between stereotyped American and European identities. The poem fixes Plath as an outsider 197
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vvho is insensitive to what is important and oversensitive to tr~via, vvhile Hughes is someone vvho intrinsically belongs. The positions of the male and female personae of this poem (the male embracing an unfamiliar location and culture, the female recoiling from it) reverse those that we savv Plath setting up in 'The Fifty-Ninth Bear'. It is vvorth noting that the Rhino of Hughes's 1989 poem 'The Black Rhino'8? is male at the poem's beginning, but female by its end. Nathalie Anderson has read the change in pronoun as a 'shift from strength to vulnerability'. 88 Leonard M. Scigaj has seen the poem as 'ecologically activist', 89 vvhile Rand Brandes has emphasised its avovval of the 'irreversibility of history' .90 These are important points, yet 'The Black Rhino' tells another story too. The Rhino can also be seen as an allegorical representation of Plath. Both are icons. Both are isolated, and soon-to-be extinct figures \vho continue to affect the living: 'The Black Rhino is vanishing. / Horribly sick, \vithout kno\ving, // She is vanishing ... II/II/ ... She has blundered somehovv into I man's phantasmagoria, and cannot get out'.91 Such a reading of 'The Black Rhino' raises questions about the \vay people, and especially \vriters, use animals. To say that the Rhino is Plath is to undermine the animal's value as being itself. More productively, vve can say that the narrator is able to appreciate the animal's value and meaning because of the similar feelings a human being has evoked for him. With hindsight, and no risk of 'you' answering back, the poem's narrator explains the Rhino to the Rhino in a direct address: You have nailed your strength To Eden's coffin Tree, the tree Of Sophistry, Too solidly To tug yourself free. So novv you die 92 The Rhino vvould conventionally be seen as a stupid animal, po"\verful but blundering, charging blindly, unable to see its ovvn interests. Sophistry, a clever and subtle but perhaps misguided reasoning, replaces the tree of knovvledge which was 'Eden's coffin / Tree' (the tree vvhose fruit tempted Eve, and caused the end of Eden and innocence). The Rhino's innocence rests in its inability to kno\v that it is a species in danger of extinction. It has great strength, but uses it un\visely, nailing it to Sophistry. Within the framevvork of the poem, the allegory may be 198
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that Plath herself, in her life, and in her vvriting, uses her genius and povvers forcefully but vvrongly, destructively and dangerously. The Rhino is a kind of tragic hero, and then heroine. Unable to adapt to the nevv conditions that threaten its life, it is unable to shovv evolutionary flexibility. The manner and tone of the narrator's second person explanation of the Rhino to the Rhino foreshadovv the narrator of Birthday Letters and the vvay he explains Plath to herself. 'The Black Rhino' connects to the Birthday Letters poems in argument (death results from too much devotion to a misguided set of beliefs) as vvell as images (trees, coffins, vvood and tables). Addressing 'Plath' , the narrator of the Birthday Letters poem 'The Table' says of the desk he made for her of 'coffin timber':' ... I did not / knovv I had made and fitted a door / Opening dovvnwards into your Daddy's grave' .93 A handful of critics have alluded to the effect of Plath's life and death on Hughes's vvriting. Dennis Walder has credited Plath's influence on Hughes, suggesting that the 'modern quality' of his \vriting o\ves much to 'poets not operating vvithin the English traditions: the Americans ... and, of course, Sylvia Plath'.94 Nick Bishop has smoothly assumed that Hughes dravvs on his life vvith Plath, vvriting that 'Bawdry Embraced'95 'celebrates their relationship'. 96 Stan Smith says of the poems Hughes published in the late 1970s, they 'speak of a \vorld in vvhich the vvorst has .already happened ... The personal experiences that culminated in the suicide of his \vife Sylvia Plath in 1963 may provide the harrovving private source of this mood'.97 Certainly the poems that comprise Hughes's 1978 collection, Calle Bh-ds: An Alchetnical Cave Dratna, are filled \vith probable references to Plath's life, and more obvious echoes of her poetry_ 'She seemed so considerate' could be read ~s a man's protest at or explanation of his vvife's inadequacies, his description of the embarrassment and burden she became: 'She seemed so considerate //And everything had become so hideous / My solemn friends sat tvvice as solemn /My jokey friends joked and joked' .98 Bitter Fanle alleges that Plath \vas mortifyingly rude to Hughes's friends and fanrily.99 It is a situation that echoes the one of 'She seemed so considerate'. Yet to draw such analogies betvveen Hughes's \vriting and life is to do to him vvhat I am trying to avoid doing to Plath. To justify a reading vvhich has it that Hughes's poetry is 'about' Plath, one might argue that such· an enterprise has not yet been attempted. No\v that Hughes has died, critics will no doubt exploit his absence. Legally, the 'dead cannot be libelled or slandered. They are vvithout legal recourse', 100 as Janet Malcolm reminds us. Even if such biographical criticism is easier to get a\vay with, it is not what I want to 199
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do. Licensed or not, it still poses considerable methodological, and moral, problems.
Textual Relationships and Poetic Conversations It is less important to see Hughes's work as 'his side of the story' than as part of a continuing conversation between his poems and Plath's. Plath's late 1962 poem 'The Applicant' appears to address Hughes's earlier poem for radio, 'The Wound', which \vas broadcast in February of 1962. In turn, Hughes re\vorks 'The Applicant' in 'Bride and groom lie hidden for three days', from his 1978 collection Cave Birds. The echoes are not simply of subject matter, though all three poems evaluate the social functions of men and women in marriage. All three anatomise the cultural, psychic, historical and sexual forces that bring men and "vomen together in the first place. Hughes and Plath make clear that their brides and grooms are products who must sell themselves, and buy each other. The \vorlds of these poems are \vorlds of loose body parts and amputations, \\lorlds where men and \vomen try to manufacture one another, attempting to create ideals to order, but instead making monsters. The influence here is not just of the war-\vounded with \vhom Plath and Hughes \vould have been so familiar, but also must surely be 1940s and 1950s films that retell Mary Shelley's Frankenstein story - especially those in which Frankenstein makes a bride for his creature. Gender floats unassigned and unresolved in 'The Applicant' . Plath's narrator is a sort of salesman or woman addressing a potential groom. By the poem's end, the groom's persona merges \vith a potential bride's. The poem's opening line - 'First, are you our sort of person?' could be read as an initiation test for a secret society. At the same time, the question is a challenge or "varning that equally haunts men and \vomen (as it haunts Esther Greenwood in The BellJar). 'Sort of person' is a euphemism for a married, heterosexual, middle-class, anti-Communist consumer. Both sexes are subjected to the pressures of 1950s normality and conformity. Unlike 'The Applicant' , gender is stable in 'Bride and groom lie hidden for three days'. Hughes gives us a 'He' and a 'She' \vho are clearly separate. Contact between his couple is not mediated by a sort of marriage broker, as it is in Plath's. His bride and groom seem designed to fill the gaps and empty spaces evoked in 'The Applicant'. Plath's narrator asks, 'Do you wear / A glass eye, false teeth 200
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o~ a crutch" and orders 'Open your hand. ! Empty? Empty. Here is a hand' .101 As if answering the job advertisement described in Plath's poem, we are told of Hughes's bride, 'She gives him his eyes' (extricated as if from a 'rubble' of war), 'She has found his hands for him', and 'She gives him his teeth'. Hughes's bride 'stitches his body here and there' ;102 repairing her groom by sewing with her own hands in \vhat we might describe as a 'natural' or traditional feminine productivity. Plath's bride, by contrast, enacts her 'feminine' labours by becoming a conveyor belt automaton: 'It can sevY, it can cook, ! It can talk, talk, talk' .1(13 'Bride and groom lie hidden for three days' does pick up on Plath's industrial capitalist metaphor of production, but associates such mechanisation \vith the man. Hughes's groom 'assembled her spine' and 'oils the delicate cogs of her mouth'. This is in opposition to his bride's more domestic labours; she 'stitches', 'gives' again and again, and 'inlays' . Hughes's groom 'sinks into place the inside of her thighs', 104 \vhile Plath's bride and groom are told by the narrator of 'The Applicant', 'You have a hole, it's a poultice' .105 It is difficult to tell \vho possesses this 'hole'. Does the female applicant own her body? Does the hole belong, post-marriage, to the groom? Plath's poenl \vorks by unsettling and confusing. Hughes's poem creates its own uncertainties. Does the groom penetrate the bride, sliding into his natural 'place', or does he build her, putting her 'thighs' 'into place'? While opening up ne\v questions, Hughes's poems seems also to want to seal up the ambiguities of'The Applicant', placing the male and female personae more securely, and healing the wounds Plath's o\vn text creates - and which he himself created, years earlier, in 'The Wound' . 'The Applicant' gives us a nightmare world of a nightmare marriage. 'Bride and groom lie hid-den for three days' , on the other hand, takes the ingredients of Plath's, but seems to present an old-fashioned, even archetypal, relationship between a man and woman that the poem would \vish to endorse. His bride and groom 'bring each other to perfection';106 as the title implies, they are on their honeymoon. 'Bride and groom lie hidden for three days' is not the only one of Hughes's poems to open up a conversation \vith the language and questions of 'The Applicant' . Though it wasn't published until 1967, Hughes's verse play 'The Wound' was performed in early 1962, eight and a half months before Plath wrote 'The Applicant'. Looked at as a dialogue that stretches beyond two poems, we can see Plath answering 'The Wound' \vith 'The Applicant' . Hughes then replies years later \vith 'Bride and groom lie hidden for three days', as if he's had further thoughts on the subject. 'The Wound' is the story of Ripley, a badly 201
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injured soldier who staggers for nine miles across a landscape devastated by vvar, seeking refuge. He finds (or hallucinates) a domestic interior, a nightmare chateau filled \-vith women \-vho are everything he fears and desires (the poem is rather like a precursor to the popular 1976 song Hotel California, by the Eagles). It \vould be easy, and too crude, to read 'The Wound' as misogynous. Rather, the poem sets the problem that 'The Applicant' and 'Bride and groom lie hidden for three days' subsequently consider: the difficulties imposed by \var and culture upon men and \vomen \-vho wish to live together (or feel pressured to do so). If'The Applicant' evaluates the post-\var culture that urges men to be real men and \vomen to be feminine \-vomen, 'The Wound' considers the events that led to this state of things. 'The Wound' is about the trauma of a man \vho has experienced the \var at first hand. Ripley has been 'properly' masculine and brave, and paid a high physical and emotional price for being so. He cannot settle easily into an interior space and simply regard \vomen as sanctuaries. 'If I ever had a home, I'm forgetting it',107 thinks Ripley, making explicit the difficulty of moving back into the domestic sphere \vhich both threatens and lures the potential husband and vvife of Plath's 'The Applicant'. For Ripley, a domestic environment filled \vith vvomen, even in the form of a fantastic chateau, is a place in \vhich he cannot breathe: 'This place is too hot. This place is airless. This place is like a tomb in a desert'. 108 Like 'The Applicant', 'The Wound' makes it clear that the trauma and violence of the t\ventieth century affect men and \-vomen both. The body parts that litter 'The Applicant' and 'Bride and groom lie hidden for three days' also litter 'The Wound'. Something is '\-vrong \vith [Ripley's] walk ... something wrong \rvith his head'.lo9 Something is \vrong with his vision, his 'eye', and there are 'no spares available'.110 As if in ans\-ver, Plath creates spares in 'The Applicant': 'A glass eye, false teeth or a crutch'.111 Ripley's 'eyebro\rvs recently burned off', and he possesses 'one gold filled molar'. 112 We might read the narrator's opening questions in 'The Applicant' as an interrogation of the shellshocked and hattIe-scarred Ripley himself 'Do you \-vear / A glass eye, false teeth or a crutch?'113 The vvomen \vhom Ripley encounters in the chateau bear injuries that are similar to his. Theirs are not sustained in direct hattle, hut are the result of the medical and sexual violence and experimentation often experienced by women both in times of vvar, and, as Plath's \vriting makes clear (for instance in the nightmare childbirth scene in The BellJar), also in times of peace. The \vomen discuss \vhat has happened to them: 202
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Fourth: And vvhat did they find did they find \vhat they hoped for. First: Lusted for. Second: Sliced me for. Third: Did they find the gold teeth. Fourth:The plastic gums. First: The glass eyes. Second:The steel skull-plates. Third: The javvbone rivets. Fourth:The rubber arteries. First: The rings. 114 The first line of the above passage contains no commas, and uses a full stop vvhere \ve would expect a question mark. Thereby Hughes dramatises the \voman's battle-stunned trauma, the dulling of her reactions, as if even her voice can no longer care. Jacqueline Rose has seen these lines as' a representation of what civilization and science does to women' , vvhile also vvorrying that the poem suggests 'they finally have only themselves to blame' .115 'The Applicant' and 'The Wound' diagnose men's and vvomen's desire and antipathy for each other as historical and cultural, not as biological or essential (because men and \vomen are 'just made that \vay'). 'The Wound' prefigures the refrain of 'The Applicant': 'Will you marry me' ,116 Ripley asks three times, using a question mark only the third, and then changing from a question to a command ('Marry me'). He moves from recoil to hypnotised need. The last \vords the audience hears from Ripley, \vhen the soldiers find him delirious, are his final 'Marry me' .117 Is Ripley saying this because he \vishes to? Or is he echoing \vhat has been asked of him? The impression is that, ho\vever much he has resisted it, marriage offers the only hope and cure. Plath picks up on this brain\vashing in the concluding line of 'The Applicant': 'Will you marry it, marry it, marry it' .118 In both poems, the question is smoothed into an order that afflicts and drives men and \vomen equally.
Bleeding Through the Page We have observed repeatedly that there is an important relationship bet\veen \vhat happens on one side of a page of Plath's manuscripts, and vvhat happens on the other. This is certainly true of the back-to-back relationship bet\veen Plath's vvork and Hughes's. The succeSSIve 203
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manuscripts of Plath's August 1962 poem 'Burning the Letters' are \vritten on the reverse sides of typescripts of some of Hughes's earlier poems: 'Toll ofAir Raids', 'The Thought-Fox', 'A Fable', 'Cradle Piece', 'Unknown Soldier' and 'Poltergeist'. It is as if, at each stage of composition, Plath's poem is driven by a conversation \vith what is happening on the reverse side of the page. Hughes's 'Toll ofAir Raids' begins \vith an image of human sorro\v, and shows ho\v people try to ignore their own distress by pushing themselves through the everyday and ordinary: 'These are the aged \vho hide their sadness I And deaths in rinds of bacon' . On the reverse side of 'Toll ofAir Raids', in lines that Plath discards from the first page of Draft 1 of 'Burning the Letters', she writes: This is what it is to be loveless! Sealed in a cement box, pouring the hissing "vater In to "vhite china cups that \vill not crack 119 Like Hughes, Plath gives us human despair, and the attempt to hide or seal these feelings by moving through domestic life in a routine \vay. This may be by breakfasting on rations of bacon rinds (too poor in money or comfort or the privations of war to \vaste them), or by pouring hot water into invincible teacups. The next page of the first draft of ,Burning the Letters' appears on the back of Hughes's 'The Thought-Fox', \vhich gives us an image of a still night through \vhich 'Cold, delicately as the dark sno"v, I A fox's nose touches t"vig, leaf'. On the back of Hughes's picture of snowy England, as if in argument \vith the earlier poem, Plath "vrites, but then cancels, the lines It never sno\vs in this county. That is the trouble. There is never a gallon of \vhite on the doorstep The rain drags its rags, the luke\varm droplets120 I have already examined Plath's interest in challenging complacent views of Englishness and English landscapes by \vriting from the cool and very different perspective of the foreigner. These deleted lines give us the view of somebody \vho is fed up with the myth of chocolate box sno\vy countryside, somebody "vho is all too familiar with un"velcome and relentless English rain. To destroy further the image on the other side of the page, Plath "vrites the line 'The dogs are tearing a fox, my love. This is "vhat it is 204
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like -' .121 The syntax here is ambiguous. It could be that 'my love' is the speaker's unfaithful lover, and that she tells him the news of the torn fox, or it could be that 'my love' is the fox, the animal itself. In either case, it is difficult not to see this cut line as a signal that Hughes's fox, setting his 'neat prints into the snow', is done for. To shovv that'biographical events and earlier texts deeply interpenetrate each other', Susan Van Dyne has analysed the relationship betvveen'Burning the Letters' and 'The Thought-Fox' in great detail. For Van Dyne,-the fox represents 'Hughes's poetic agency'. He is 'set upon and destroyed by his own deception'. The speaker, by contrast, 'stands by unbloodied and yet unequivocally avenged' .122 Hughes's poem famously ends vvith the lines, 'The vvindo\v is starless still; the clock ticks, I The page is printed.' If this line were to bleed through the paper, onto the reverse side, \ve \vould see below it Plath's o\vn hand\vritten and then crossed-out line, 'Rising & flying, but blinded, & \vith no message' .123 Plath's discarded line does not just describe the burnt letters, or carbon birds, lifted by the flame into the air \vith their words no longer visible. It also seems to be saying: the \vords on the back of this manuscript are meaningless; they are saying nothing; they cannot see how things really are. Again and again, Plath's poem seems to be speaking to Hughes's, whispering, I'll shovv you \vhat things are really like ('This is what it is like -'), and tear you to pieces, or burn you up, in the process. 'Burning the Letters' is at the extremity of the most fundamental and physical sense in which Plath's vvork is related to Hughes's. It is a sense that cannot be disclosed by the published versions of their poems, removed as these are from the original drafts and typescripts. Yet 'Burning the Letters' is not the only one of Plath's poems in \vhich, at each stage of composition, she seems to be answering or arguing with or taking up \vhatever poem or line or idea Hughes's \vork presents on the reverse side of the paper. It is as if Plath picks up an abandoned draft or piece of scrap paper, reads vvhatever appears on it before putting it in the typevvriter or picking up her pen, and then begins, prompted by or unable to forget the ,"vords that came before. This must be the case \vith her 1961 poem'Widovv', \vhich was written during the spring that Plath began The Bell Jar. I have already discussed the sympathy that the book asks of the reader for Mrs Greenvvood, just as I have tried to establish the clarity with which the narrative demands that Esther's vie\v of her mother be challenged. With more explicitness than The Bell Jar,'Wido\v' looks from a different angle at what \vas obviously preoccupying Plath in her \vriting of that period: the position of a character in Mrs Green\vood's circumstance; 'Wido\v' 205
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evaluates the situation of a \voman bereft of her husband. Through its title, the poem makes such a \voman central to it in a vvay that Mrs Greenvvood, relegated as she is to the periphery of Esther's drama, cannot be. What, asks 'Wido\v', is to be done \vith a woman \vho is past childbearing age, a vvoman \vho is not attached to a man anymore? The first two handwritten drafts of'Wido\v' appear on the reverse sides of typed drafts of ,My Father', a section from Hughes's humorous children's book Nfeet A!1' Folks!. Hughes's subject seems to have seeped through the paper and into Plath's, \vhere the situat~on is given a very different treatment. Any father in Plath's poem can only be an absence, the very man \vhose death allovvs Plath's central figure to assume her label and role. Plath's poem, at least implicitly, is about the father, or male partner, who isn't there, and the vvoman \vho is left on her own. Plath also gives us an adult perspective, instead of the child's perspective of Hughes's children's book. While the father of Hughes's book is a 'Chief Inspector of Holes'124 and 'clefts in the \vall' ,125 Plath metaphorically opens up the cleft left by the husband's absence in 'Wido\v'. 'The dead syllable, with its shadovv I Of an echo, exposes the panel in the \vall / Behind \vhich the secret passage lies - stale air' .126 Appropriately, the third (handvvritten) and fourth (first typed) drafts of ,Widow' are on the back of,My Mother' from J\;feet 1\4:1' Folks!. Like the vvriting that appears on the reverse, Plath's poem also evaluates family positions, and especially the mother's. The zany mother of Hughes's book stands in her kitchen, in a chaotic cro\vd of family members vvho adore her. She cooks them marvellous, absurdly named dishes. By contrast, Plath's widovv is alone in a 'gray, spiritless room' that she fears her husband's soul 'looks in on, and must go on looking in on'127 while she lives, vvishing to see or hear him, but unable to. Plath's poem is sympathetic to the position of the woman alone, and to the grief and loneliness of a middle-aged or elderly \voman. The narrator of 'Widovv' can afford to demonstrate compassion for the vvidovv: 'The \vay she laid his letters, till they gre\v \Varnl I And seemed to give her \varmth, like a live skin. / But it is she \vho is paper no\v, \varmed by no one'.128 The half-rhyme of ,skin' vvith 'again' in an earlier line from this stanza seems to mimic the hopeless repetition of the vvidovv's gesture. This imperfect rhyme also dramatises the poem's idea of \vhat a compromised, incomplete and unsatisfying thing such pretence of contact must be. Esther Greenvvood, in her depression and self-obsession, cannot express such sympathy for the mother vvithout breaking the strictures of narrative perspective and character plausibility. Despite the sympathetic perspective to\vards the \vidovv in Plath's poem, it is, in 206
the end, a pessimistic and even patronising account of late \vido\.vhood, \vhich need not consist of mournful repetitions, but could involve, to name but t\.vo possibilities, travel or further education.'Wido\.v' seems to suggest that to be anything \.vorth"vhile, a \.voman needs a man; or, at the very least, the poem reflects the vie\.v of its time: that this is so.
The Future Simple as this assumption may seem, I have argued from the outset of this book that in spite of the volumes that have been written about Plath, much of \.vhat is central to her writing has been missed. This book, I hope, is only the first of many critical attempts to uncover what is in the \vork, and yet, because of the persisting and po\verful fixation on Plath's biographical drama, has not yet been seen. There is a second and more literal sense of \vhat remains to be uncovered: writings that simply are not available to the public at all. On 14 September 1998, a fe\.v \.veeks before his death, Ted Hughes unsealed sections of Plath's journals that he had originally planned to keep locked up until 2013, or as long as Plath's mother and brother remained alive (Mrs Plath died in the mid-1990s). Once unsealed, these sections \.vere published in Karen Kukil's 2000 edition of the Journals. Kukil has provided a scholarly transcription of all of Plath's personal papers that Smith College holds. She has preserved Plath's spelling, syntax, capitalisation, and punctuation, and \.visely refrained from interrupting Plath's text vvith her o\.vn, thereby allo\ving readers the freedom to interpret Plath's \.vords as they choose. Yet Kukil provides readers with the information they require. She has kept each journal separate, and used her endnotes to describe the formats and physical characteristics of the sources from which the transcribed material \vas taken. Given the variety of forms Plath's physical papers take, this has been no small challenge. The \.vord'journals' itself might be put in scare quotes. Plath's 'journals' include handwriting in store-bought bound and spiral notebooks, typing on miscellaneous pieces of paper, and scra\vls on sheets of varying degrees of size, colour, type and formality. Some of these are difficult to date precisely, or even to narro\.v to a reasonable range of years. While the 'journals' are officially lodged in Smith College's Rare Book Room, the Lilly Library also possesses papers and small calendars in \.vhich Plath jotted her thoughts. These might also, legitimately, constitute Plath's 'journals'. I think \ve must 207
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accept at the outset that, even \vith the best will and skill in the \vorld, there "vill never be a 'complete' edition of Plath's Journals. Plath's published journals end on 15 November 1959 (vvith the exception of notes she made about her neighbours, and 'The Inmate', "vhich tells of her stay in hospital in February of 1961). Hughes has made contradictory statements about the last, unpublished volumes of Plath's journals. In particular, he has spoken of t\VO 'maroon-backed ledgers ... from late '59 to within three days of her death'. Hughes says of the last of these ledgers, 'I destroyed it because I didn't want her children to have read it', and tells us that the penultimate one 'disappeared' .129 Referring to these same t\VO journal volumes in another 1982 piece, Hughes \vrites: 'The second of these two books her husband destroyed, because he did not want her children to have read it ... The earlier one disappeared more recently (and may; presumably; still turn up)' .130 While similar, Hughes's t\VO accounts of \vhat happened to the last ledger nonetheless differ in important ways. First, as Janet Malcolm has observed, there is Hughes's shift from first person to third person. The distancing effect of his rhetorical pose suggests that he has no personal involvement in all of this. 131 Such a pretence is probably counterproductive, and only reinforces the reader's a\vareness of the fact that Hughes is, or was, 'her husband'. To. Malcolm's point \ve can add Hughes's equally str~nge attachment of the children to Plath alone. He uses the pronoun 'her' before 'children', \vhere \ve \vould expect 'our'. Hughes is at once, or syntactically, nothing to do \vith the couple's daughter and son. Yet in this protective gesture, he is everything to do with them. I make these points not to criticise Hughes, but to ackno\vledge the very difficult position in \vhich he has been placed. It is not surprising that Hughes's attempts to talk about the editing of Plath's \vork, as if at a professional distance, rupture. The syntax is disrupted again and again, probably vvith some degree of self-consciousness on Hughes's - the poet's - part. The other significant difference between the t\vo accounts of what happened to the journals is Hughes's parenthetical '(and may, presumably, still turn up)'. One feels that Hughes, within the parentheses that imply relative unimportance, is dryly teasing the Plath scholars, or 'crazy club',132 as he call them, vvhom he sees as the enemy. Given vvhat Hughes has been through at the hands of critics, many may sympathise \vith his impulse to toy with them. Hughes dangles hope that, as Malcolm puts it, 'the journal is in fact ... in his hands' .133Yet in the same essay, Hughes can also write, maddeningly, because as if innocently, 'we certainly have lost a valuable appendix to all that later 208
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"vriting' .134 Again the pronoun shift is revealing, and probably intentional. It is as if Hughes suffers the loss \vith us: and had nothing to do with causing the deprivation. It is as if, also, he wishes to rub it in. Hughes himself has admitted his own fallibility in accounting for Plath's missing work. He speaks of stories that he 'remembered her having \vritten', stories that he assumed she had 'lost or destroyed as failures', only to find they had turned up at the Lilly Library, 'acquired ... from ... the \vriter's mother' .135 Again, Hughes's language is notable for the \-vay it both involves and distances him. He remembers Plath vvriting the stories because he \-vas there, intimately, under the same roof, day after day for seven years as her lover and husband. At the same time, she is, formally, 'the \-vriter', not Sylvia, as if there "vas never any personal relation at all (and he never met her mother). As Hughes makes clear, vvhat can be made to disappear, or is assumed lost, can potentially (though not necessarily) be recovered. I am not sure we should take him at his \vord that he destroyed her last journal. True as Hughes's claim may have been, it may also have constituted an understandable ruse along the lines of leave me alone, don't bother TIle, I have nothing more to give you, I'll say anything if you \-vill just go a\vay. Notably, the American edition ofJol11111Y Panic (published in 1979) contains a piece \\iThose full title is 'The Smiths: George, Marjorie (50), Claire (16) (Froln Notebooks, Spring 1962)'136 (this "vas reprinted as an appendix to the 2000 edition of the Journals, with the family's real name, the Tyrers, restored t37). According to this parenthetical description (supplied by the editor ofJoluu1Y Panic), 'The Smiths' is froIn the period of the lost earlier notebook, or the final one that Hughes destroyed. (So is Plath's 1961 piece about her stay in hospital, 'The Inmate', \vhich appeared in the first edition of the published journals in 1982.) Plath writes acidly of her dislike for 'The Smiths', and her suspicion that their daughter wished to have an affair \vith Hughes. Given the relatively late date of'The Smiths', and the angry, critical nature of the piece, I \vondered whether it came from the allegedly destroyed last notebook. If it had, this might be evidence that the last notebooks still existed. Unfortunately, I discovered in the archives that Plath typed this sketch of her neighbours (and numerous others) on separate, loose, extra long, lined sheets of paper. Smith College o\vns the originals; they are not part of the supposedly destroyed or lost journals. However, the fact that Hughes did leave extant papers that are so closely related to the destroyed journals may indicate that he did not actually annihilate Plath's other private writing of the period. When he comes to \vrite his 1978 Introduction to Johnny Panic and the Bible of 209
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DreanlS, Hughes speaks of the absent journals in the present tense, as if they still exist. 'Much of this journal either describes people still alive or is very private to her ... A few of the ... later entries have been selected' .138 Implicitly, if later entries have been 'selected', they have been extracted from a matrix of other \\lork from the same period.You cannot select if you have lost or destroyed all other options. The dated entries of the Smith family piece, like the 'Rose and Percy B' and 'Charlie Pollard and the Beekeepers' pieces that appear in both editions of JOhlZtly Partie, mimic the format for headings and dates that Plath often used in her journals. Hughes's 1982 statement that the earlier notebook disappeared 'recently' makes it seem unlikely that he destroyed the later one during the three years that passed bet\veen the appearance ofJohnny Panic and his accounts of what happened to the journals. Why vvait until ben\leen fifteen and nineteen years after Plath's death to destroy the journals, at a time when one might suppose that grief, vvhile still present, had lost its initial intensity, and emotions "vere under greater control? Why didn't he do it earlier, if he did it at all? Moreover, Anne Stevenson tells us in Bitter Falne that 'An entry Ol"vyn remembers from Sylvia's lost journal strikes a poignant note: '''We ans"ver the door together. They step over me as though I "vere a mat, and \valk straight into [Ted's] heart" '.139 Does Hughes's sister have a photographic memory, so that she remembers vvord for \vord a text that supposedly no longer exists? If not and she is paraphrasing, she is doing an excellent job of mimicking "vords that Plath "vrote during the spring of 1962. Or, more likely, does the journal still exist, so that Olwyn Hughes "vas able to dip into it in the late 1980s and bring along the quotation for Stevenson? The published letters are cut and edited in such a \vay that it is impossible to track Plath's references to her novels. The effect is not to do"vnplay Plath's possible novels, but to make the reader all the more curious, because we are so teased and frustrated, about ho"v many she \vrote, \vhen she "vrote them, and what they vvere about. The confusion is intensified by Plath's silence about The BellJar in her letters to her mother, and her wish to keep the novel secret from her. 140 Hughes has alluded to Plath's last novel, 'provisionally titled Double Exposure' .141 In 1971, he spoke of this novel as having'got lost - along vvith quite a fe\v other things - in the traffic terminal confusion ... just after her death' .142 Six years later, he wrote (\vith \vhat must surely be disingenuous casualness): 'That manuscript disappeared some"vhere around 1970' .143 1970 is not 'just after' Plath's death. 1970 is seven years after her death. Plath's mother notes that there were three novels: The Bell Jar; the 210
sequel to it that Plath burned during the summer of 1962 \vhile Mrs Plath \vatched (or witnessed Plath burning sOlnething); and a third, set in Plath's Devon village and concerning a love triangle. 144 These contradictions are hopeful ones. Something 'lost' might·be found. The situation is more open to remedy than one in \vhich something has 'disappeared' . Hughes has \vritten, fairly enough, of the blur that follo\ved Plath's death, and the period during \vhich he published or withheld her \vriting, 'I no longer remember \vhy· I did many things' .145 His inconsistent descriptions of \vhat happened to Double Exposure are the statements ofa man besieged and under terrible pressure. So too is his statement about his editing of Ariel, made in his Introduction to the Collected Poen1S. Hughes tell us: 'It omitted some of the more personally aggressive poems from 1962, and might have omitted one or t"\vo more if she had not already published them'. 146 Again, we are confronted \vith that familiar pronoun trick, as if Ariel selected and published its o\vn poems, \vhile Hughes \-vas entirely absent from the process. This shift, like the one concerning the maroon journal ledgers, is a corrective to an earlier and less widely disseminated account, in which Hughes does take responsibility for the Ariel omissions. He \vrites, using the first person: 'I also kept out one or t\VO that vvere aimed too nakedly'.147 What \ve have in these statements is, for me, reassuring, not depressing. Hughes's admissions that he \vould \vish to hide poems that are 'personally aggressive' or 'aimed too nakedly' imply that there may be more such poems, somevvhere. If there are, they tnay well come to light. Admittedly, Hughes's treatment of Plath's work can be frustrating for her readers: the omissions, the nlisplaced manuscripts, the inconsistent accounts of \vhat actually happened to her \vork. Yet his actions are themselves worthy of study; they are part of a unique publishing history, the still-unfolding stories of tvvo of the t\ventieth century's most important bodies of vvork. In April 2000, Emory University opened its archive of Hughes's personal papers. These are available to scholars. Ho\vever, there is one exception: a sealed trunk that Hughes stipulated must remain locked for t\venty-five years after his death. 148 We can only guess at \vhat this contains; perhaps one or both of Plath's lost journals, perhaps her missing novel, perhaps poems by Plath and Hughes that nobody has ever seen. The story continues.
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Notes 1. Hughes, NelV Selected Poel1ls, 1995: 298. 2. Hughes, Birthday Letters, 1998: inside front cover. 3. For instance, the line 'Her blacks crackle and drag' (Collected POel1'lS, 273), fronl Plath's 'Edge', appears in a slightly modified version in Hughes's 'Night-Ride on Ariel' as 'Crackling and dragging their blacks' (Birthda}l Letters, 1998: 175). For a detailed discussion of the links bet\veen Plath's poems and Birthday Letters, see Wagner, Ariel's Gift, 2000. 4. Glaister, 'The Rise and Rise ofTed Hughes, Deceased', 1999: 3. 5. Faas, 'Ted Hughes and Gaudete', 1980: 213. 6. We learn that Wodwo appeared 'four years after' Plath's death and \vas described by Hughes as "'a descent into destruction of some sort''': Bishop, Re-tnaking Poetry, 1991: 88. Bishop is quoting Hughes from an intervie\v vvith Ekbert Faas, 'Ted Hughes and Crou/. London 1vlagazitze 10 (10 Jan. 1971): 5-20, at 15. Reprinted in Faas, Ted Hughes: The Unac£olnn10dafed Universe, 1980: 197-208, at 205. 7. Sagar, TIle Art ofTed Hughes, 1975: 57, 62. 8. Bishop, Re-rnaking Poetry, 1991: ix. 9. Faas, Ted Hughes: The LTnacconunodated Universe, 1980: 11. 10. Neill, 'The Fire That Still Burns After Sylvia', 1998: 12. 11. Faas, 'Chapters ofa Shared Mythology', 1983: 124. 12. Ibid., 120. 13. Ibid., 115. 14. Ibid., 115-16. 15. Ibid., 108. 16. Ibid.) 110. 17. Ibid., 114. 18. Ibid., 115. 19. Ibid., 111. 20. Rosenthal, 'Sylvia Plath and Confessional Poetry', 1970: 71. 21. West, Ted Hughes, 1985: 14. 22. Scigaj, Ted Hughes: Forn1 atzd IrnaginQtion, 1986: 87. Scigaj \vrites: "'Sno\v" ... \vas published before the move to Devon; "The Rescue" ... appeared in print before the marital breakdo\vn; and The Hk>und, "Bowled Over," and "The Green Wolf" all antedate Plath's suicide' (87). 23. Scigaj, Ted Hughes: FOrtl1 and bnagination, 1986: 236. 24. Ibid., 196. Along these lines, Scigaj tells us:' "The Angel," the final poem of Rel1zains of Elmet, is a revision of "Ballad from a Fairy Tale" in U1Jdu/o. Both poems recount dream premonitions of Sylvia Plath's death some t\vo years before the event. In the dream the \vbite square of satin foreshado\ved the white square of satin covering Sylvia's face vvhen Hughes first viewed the body' (253). For the source of this information,
26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38.
41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46.
Scigaj cites conversations with Ted and Olviyn Hughes in August of 1979 (335). A particularly absurd example of biographical irrelevance occurs in an 'About the Author' blurb attached to a revie\v of Birthday Letters. Hughes., "ve learn, \-vas once so beautiful that some \vomen were physically sick \vhen they sa\v him'. Hensher, 'Some Home Truths About Sylvia Plath', 1998: 36. Walder, Ted Hughes, 1987: 19. Ibid., 20-1.Walder is quoting Plath fromA.Alvarez, ed., The Net'l/ Poetry. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965: 28. Walder, Ted Hughes, 1987: 21. In Relnains of Ebnet (1979). Walder, Ted Hughes, 1987: 84. Neill, 'The Fire That Still Burns After Sylvia', 1998: 12. Carey, 'Fatal Attraction', 1998: 1. Hughes, Birthday Letters, 1998: inside front cover. Eagleton, The Rape of Clarissa, 1982: 43. Hughes, 'Fulbright Scholars', Birthday LeUers, 1998: 3. Hughes, 'Caryatids (I)', Birthdar Letters, 1998: 4. Hughes, Birthda}! Letters, 1998: 65. Ibid., 69. Hughes here revisits Plath's poems 'Child's Park Stones' and 'Fable of the Rhododendron Stealers'. Childs Park, without an apostrophe and named after the Childs family, is an actual park near Smith College \vhere Hughes and Plath often \valked. Hughes, Birthday Letters, 1998: 135. I am unable to quote from 'Fidelity'. In a fax sent from the Permissions Controller at Faber & Faber to the publishers of this book, the following "vas explained: We cannot grant permission for any material to be reprinted from ... the poem 'Fidelity' \vhich appears in Birthday Letters. The author asked that certain poenls from Birthda}l Letters \vere hot taken out of context of the \vork as a \vhole and vve adhere to his \vishes today. I have listed the poems that cannot be reprinted from this collection belo"v ... 'Fidelity', 'Dreamers' , 'The Inscription', 'The Cast', 'The Ventriloquist' , 'Life after Death'. Fax dated 22 August 2000, from Sally Robson, Permissions Controller at Faber & Faber, to Michele Kemp at Pearson Education. Hughes, '18 Rugby Street', Birthday Letters, 1998: 24. Hughes, 'God Help the Wolfafter Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark', Birthday Letters, 1998: 26. Hughes, CSt Botolph's', Birthda}l Letters, 1998: 15. Hughes, Birthday LeUers, 1998: 134. Hensher, 'Some Home Truths About Sylvia Plath', 1998: 36. Anne Stevenson suggests that readers could use her biography 'as a guide 213
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47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52.
53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64.
66. 67. 68. 69.
to Birthday Letters as "vell as to Plath's Collected PoenlS'. Stevenson, 'Ne\v Preface, 1998' to Bitter FanIe, 1989: xi. Wagner, Arie11 Gift, 2000: 25. Glaister, 'The Rise and Rise ofTed Hughes, Deceased', 1999: 3. Hughes, 'Visit', Birthday Letters, 1998: 9. Hughes, Birthday Letters, 1998: 17. Eagleton, The Rape of Clarissa, 1982: 48. Pearson Education sent a typescript of The Other Sylvia Plath to Faber & Faber, "vho publish Hughes and Plath in England, and to \vhorn all requests to quote their \vork Inust be directed. Faber granted permission for nle to quote the extracts from Plath's and Hughes's \vork that I "vished to use in this book, and did so unconditionally and vvith no interference in my argument. Ho"vever, their Permissions Controller explained, 'We cannot grant permission for any nlaterial to be reprinted from HouAs and l'J/flispers'. (See also note 40 above.) SMITH. Box: Plath - Letters (A-Z). Folder: Letters, Beuscher, Ruth. T.L.s. 26 Sept. 1962. Hughes, 'The Offers'. The Sunday Titues. 18 Oct. 1998: Books Section, pp. 8-9. Maguire, 'An Old Fresh Grief', 1998: 11. Neill, 'The Fire That Still Burns Mter Sylvia', 1998: 12. Hensher, 'Sonle Home Truths About Sylvia Plath', 1998: 36. Miller, 'Et in America Ego', 1998: 3. Longley, 'Obfuscating Myths', 1998: 30. Glaister, 'The Rise and Rise ofTed Hughes, Deceased', 1999: 3. Evans is quoted in ibid. Cunningham, 'For Better orVerse?', 1998: 21. Sagar, The Art of Ted Hughes, 1975: 10-11. 'Secretary' and 'Fallgrief's Girl-friends' appeared in the St Botolph's RetdeUl that Hughes and his Cambridge friends published in 1956. 'Secretary', untitled \vhen it first appeared, \vas reprinted in The Hau"~in the Rain (1957). Sagar, The Art ofTed Hughes, 1975: 11. Of the three poems Sagar lists here, only 'The Green Wolf' appeared in l'}vdu'o (1967). 'Vie"v of a Pig' "vas first published in the Tittles Literary Supplenlent, 7 Aug. 1959, and reprinted in Lupercal (1960) (Sagar 1975: 184). 'Out' \vas recorded 29 Aug. 1962; 'The Green Wolf' appeared as 'Dark Women' ,in The Observer, 6 Jan. 1963 (Sagar 1975: 186). Lucas Myers, in Appendix I to Stevenson, Bitter Fa1ne, 1989: 312. The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1982: 111. TheJournals ojS}llvia Plath, 2000: 211. ~ifford and Roberts, Ted Hughes: A Critical Study, 1981: 22. Scigaj, Ted Hughes: Forrn and bnagination, 1986: 187.The quotation from Gaudele can he found in Hughes, Gaudete, 1977: 104.
NOTES 70. Reprinted in Hughes, TtVoduJo, 1967: 104-46. 71. Ibid., 184. 72. 'Cro"v's Song About England', in Sagar (ed.), The AchievetnentqfTed Hugh.es (Part 3,'Uncollected and Unpublished Poems'), 1983: 338. 73. Collected Poe111s, 209. 74. 'Crow's Song About England', in Sagar (ed.), The AchicvernentifTed Hughes (Part 3, 'Uncollected and Unpublished Poems'), 1983: 338. 75. Nathalie Anderson, 'Ted Hughes and the Challenge of Gender', 1994: 91. 76. Hughes, Introduction to Johnny Panic, 1977, 1979: 2 (American first edition). 77. Ibid., 5. 78. Ibid., 7; Faber edition, 12. 79. Hughes, Introduction to JOhlUl}l Panic, 1977, 1979: 2. (American first edition). 80. Faas, 'Ted Hughes and Gaudete', 1980: 214. 81. Ibid;, 213. 82. Hughes, 'Dylan Thomas', 1966: 182. 83. These are: 'Chaucer', 'You Hated Spain' ,'The Earthenware Head', 'The Tender Place', 'Black Coat', 'Being Christlike', 'The God', and 'The Dogs Are EatingYour Mother'. 84. Armitage, 'Bet"veen Consciousness and Cosmos', 1995: 23. 85. In Hughes, FlouJers and Insects, 1986: 9; 38-9; 52-5. 86. Walder, Ted Hughes, 1987: 27. 87. In Hughes, M/olfivatching, 1989: 26-32. 88. Nathalie Anderson, 'Ted Hughes and the Challenge of Gender', 1994: 112. 89. Scigaj, 'Ted Hughes and Ecology', 1994: 178. 90. Brandes, 'Hughes, History and the World in Which We Live', 1994: 152. 91. Hughes, Wo!fit1atching, 1989: 30. 92. Ibid., 29. 93. Hughes, Birthday Letters, 1998: 138. 94. Walder, Ted Hughes, 1987: 54. 95. 'Ba\vdry Embraced' \vas published in Recklings, 'a limited edition of 150 copies in 1966' (Bishop, 'Neglected Auguries in "Recklings'" , 1994: 11). It first appeared in Poetry LXXXVIII,S Aug. 1956 (Sagar, The Art ifTed Hughes, 1975: 182) . Nathalie Anderson notes that it "vas'explicitly dedicated to Plath' (Anderson, 'Ted Hughes and the Challenge of Gender', 1994: 96). 96. Bishop, 'Neglected Auguries in "Recklings"', 1994: 17. 97. Stan Smith, Inviolable VOice, 1982: 166. 98. Hughes, Cave Birds, 1978: 14. 99. Stevenson discusses Plath's 'implacability' to Lucas Myers, and her spurning of his and Hughes's efforts to' "make amends'" after a visit to the pub. Stevenson, Bitter Fa1nc, 1989: 185. She refers to Hughes's 'ordeal'
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after a visit by his sister and her friend Janet Crosbie-Hill during vvhich Plath supposedly demonstrated 'seething aggression' and caused 'acute embarrassment' to all by 'addressing neither look nor vvord to Janet' (186). 100. Malcolm, The Silent IMnnan, 1994: 8. 101. Collected Poetus, 221. 102. Hughes, Cave Birds, 1978: 56. 103. Collected POe11'1S, 222. 104. Hughes, Cave Birds, 1978: 56. lOS. Collected Poetus, 222. 106. Hughes, Cave Birds, 1978: 56. 107. Hughes, J4ibdtvo, 1967: 107. 108. Ibid., 127. 109. Ibid., 104. 110. Ibid., 106. 111. Collected POe11lS, 221. 112. Hughes, J4ibdtvo, 1967: 109. "113. Collected Poerns, 221. 114. Hughes, J4ibdt~vo, 1967: 122-3. 115. Rose, The Haunting of Sylvia Plath, 1991: 159,160. 116. Hughes, VVodwo, 1967: 145. 117. Ibid., 146. 118. Collected Poenls, 222. 119. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems. A "Birthday Present - Cut. Folder: Ariel Poems, 'Burning the Letters', Draft 1, page 1. 120. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems. A Birthday Present - Cut. Folder: Ariel Poems, 'Burning the Letters', Draft 1, page 2. 121. Ibid. 122. Van Dyne, Revising Life, 1993: 34, 40. 123. SMITH. Box: Plath - Ariel Poems. A Birthday Present - Cut. Folder: Ariel Poems, 'Burning the Letters', Draft 1, page 2. 124. LILLY Plath MSS. 1961, 16 May. 'Widovv';Hughes,..?\/!eet My Folks!, 1987:57. 125. Hughes, .l\rfeet My Folks!, 1987: 58. 126. Collected Poents, 164. 127. Ibid., 165. 128. Ibid., 164. 129. Hughes, Forevvord to The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1982: xiii.
130. Hughes, 'Sylvia Plath and Her Journals', 1994, 1995: 177. 131. 132. 133. 134. 135.
Malcolm, The Silent VVotnan, 1994: 5-6. Hughes, 'Publishing Sylvia Plath', 1994: 163. Malcolm, The Silent VVonlan, 1994: 5. Hughes, 'Sylvia Plath and Her Journals', 1994, 1995: 178. Hughes, Introduction toJolnlllY Panic, Faber editioti, 1977, 1979: 11. 136. Johnny Panic, 1977, 1979: 36-51 (American first edition).
137. The]ourl1als of Sylvia Plath, 2000: 630-43. 138. Hughes, Introduction to Johnn}' Panic (American first edition), 1977, 1979: 7-8; Faber edition, 13. 139. Stevenson, Bitter Fatne, 1989: 241. 140. In a 20 Nov. 1961 letter to her mother, Plath refers casually and imprecisely to a 'finished ... batch of stuff ... tied up in four parcels' for her Saxton grant. This 'stuff' is, in fact, The BellJar. Letters Horne, 437. 141. Hughes,Introduction toJolulny Panic, Faber edition, 1977, 1979: 11. 142. Hughes, 'Publishing Sylvia Plath', 1994, 1995: 168.
143. Hughes, Introduction to ]ohnn}' Panic, Faber edition, 1977, 1979: 11. 144. LILLY Plath MSS. II, Writings, Letters Home - Part Seven. Box 9, folder 145. 146. 147. 148.
10. Hughes, 'Publishing Sylvia Plath', 1994, 1995: 167. Hughes, introduction to Collected Poerns (Aug. 1980): 15. Hughes, 'Publishing Sylvia Plath', 1994, 1995: 167. See Wagner, 'At Last,]ustice for Hughes', 2000: 6. See Bone,'Hughes Papers Reveal Devotion to Plath', 2000: 10.
By Sylvia Plath Lucas, Victoria. The BellJar. London: William Heinemann, 1963. First English edition. Lucas, Victoria. The BellJar. London: Contemporary Fiction William Heinemann, 1964. Plath-, Sylvia. Ariel. London: Faber and Faber, 1965. First English edition. Plath, Sylvia. Ariel. NewYork: Harper & Row, 1966. First US edition. Plath, Sylvia. The BellJar. London: 1963; Faber and Faber, paperback first published 1966. Plath, Sylvia. The BellJar. NevvYork: Harper & Ro\v, 1971. First US edition. Plath, Sylvia. The BellJar. Ne"vYork: 1971; Bantam Books paperback edition, 1972. Plath, Sylvia. The BellJar. London: Faber and Faber, 1963. Faber Library hardcover edition, 1996. Plath, ~ylvia. The BellJar. Nevv York: HarperCollins, 1971. Twenty-Fifth Anniversary hardcover edition published 1996. Plath, Sylvia. The Collected Poel11s, ed. Ted Hughes. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1981. Plath, Sylvia. The Colossus and Other PoenlS. Ne\vYork: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962. First US edition. Plath, Sylvia. The Colossus and Other Poetns. London: Faber and Faber, 1967 (Reissue). Plath, Sylvia. Crossing the VWlter. London: Faber and Faber, 1971. First English edition.
Plath, Sylvia. Crossing the T¥ater. N eV~l York: Harper & Row, 1971. First US edition. Plath, Sylvia. Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreatns and Other Prose Writings. London: Faber and Faber, 1977, 1979. Plath, Sylvia. Johnny Panic and the Bible of Drealns: Short Stories, Prose, And Diary Excerpts. NevvYork: Harper & Ro"v, 1977, 1979. First US edition. Plath, Sylvia. TI'te Journals of Sylvia Plath, ed. Frances McCullough, consulting ed. Ted Hughes. NevvYork: The Dial Press, 1982. 218
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Plath, Sylvia. The Journalsqf Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962, ed. Karen V Kukil. London: Faber and Faber, 2000. Plath, Sylvia. Letters Horne,ed.Aurelia Schober Plath. London: Faber and Faber, 1975. Plath, Sylvia. Sylvia Plath. Selected by Diane Wood Middlebrook. Everyman's Library Pocket Poets. NewYork:AlfredA. Knopf, 1998. Plath, Sylvia. Winter Trees. London: Faber and Faber, 1971. First English edition. Plath, Sylvia. Winter Trees. Ne"\vYork: Harper & Rovv, 1972. First US edition.
Rare or Limited Editions Ackerman, Diane, etal. About Sylvia. Wallingford, Pennsylvania: The Elm Press, 1996.
Hughes, Ted. HouAs & fVhispers. Etchings by Leonard Baskin. Rockport, Maine:The Gehenna Press, 1998. Limited edition of 110 numbered copies. Eleven Birthday Letters poems not published in Birthday Letters (published August 1998). Plath, Sylvia. A Day in June. Ely: Embers Handpress, 1981. Consists of a single short story, 'A Day in June', "\vritten in 1952. First edition of 160 copies. Also printed in the British edition ofJohtiny Panic and the Bibleqf Drea1'1:~s, but omitted from the American edition. Plath, Sylvia. Child. Exeter: The Rougemont Press, 1971. Limited edition of 325 copies, the first 300 copies only for distribution. Plath, Sylvia. Crystal Gazer and Other Poems by Sylvia Plath. London: Rainbovv Press, 1971. Limited edition of 400 numbered copies. Plath, Sylvia. The Green Rock. Ely: Embers Handpress, 1982. Consists of a single short story, 'The Green Rock', vvritten in 1949. First edition of 160 copies. Also printed in the British edition ofJohnny Panic and the Bibleqf Drea111S published by Faber, but omitted from the American edition. Plath, Sylvia. Lyonnesse. London: Rainbo"\v Press, 1971. Limited edition of 400 numbered copies. Plath, Sylvia. lVliUion Dollar Month. Farnham: The Sceptre Press, 1971. Consists of a single poem, 'Million Dollar Month', "\vritten in the early 1950s, vvhile Sylvia Plath vvas at Smith College. Issue of 150 copies. Plath, Sylvia. Pursuit. London: The Rainbo"\v Press, 1973. With an etching and drawings by Leonard Baskin. Limited edition of 100 copies. Plath,. Sylvia. Stings. Original Drafts of the Poem in Facsimile. Reproduced from the Sylvia Plath Collection at Smith College. Easthampton: The PioneerValley Printing Company, 1982. Edition of 5000 copies. Plath, Sylvia. TIlree tt01nen. London: Turret Books, 1968.With an 219
Introductory Note by Douglas Cleverdon. First broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, 19 August 1962. Limited edition of 180 numbered copies (of vvhich only 150 are for sale).
On Sylvia Plath or Her Work Alexander, Paul. Rough lvlagic:A Biography of Sylvia Plath. NevvYork:Viking Penguin, 1991. Alvarez, A. The Savage God: A Stud}! of Suicide. Harmonds\vorth: Penguin, 1971. Alvarez, A. 'Sylvia Plath' (1963). 1ri-Quarterly. Number Seven, Fall 1966: 65-74. Ames, Lois. 'Sylvia Plath: A Biographical Note'. In Sylvia Plath, The BeUJar. NevvYork: Harper & Rovv; 1971: 277-96. First US edition. Anderson, Steven ~ (ed.). The GreatA111erican Bathrooln Book (VolUrtle II). Salt Lake City: Compact Classics, 1993: 283-4. Axelrod, Steven Gould. Sylvia Plath: The fIVOund and the CureofT470rds. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990. Bassnet, Susan. Sylvia Plath. London: Macmillan, 1987. Bloom, Harold (ed.). Sylvia Plath. Modern Critical Vie~Ts series. Ne\vYork: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989. Bone, James. 'Hughes Papers Reveal Devotion to Plath'. The Tilnes. 8 April 2000: 10. Bronfen, Elisabeth. Sylvia Plath. Plymouth: Northcote House (in Association with the British Council), 1998. Butscher, Edward. Sylvia Plath: lvfethod and Madness. Ne\vYork: Seabury Press, 1976. Byatt, A. S. 'Sylvia Plath: Letters HOlne' (1976). In A. S. Byatt. Passions of the 1\!ind: Selected Writings. London:Vintage, 1991: 250-4. Coles, Joanna. 'Film Teams Jostle for Poetic Justice'. The Tirtles. 5 December 1998: 15. Corroll, Rory. 'Discovery of Plath's Forgotten Teenage Poems Dismays Friends'. The Guardian. 20 November 1998: 2. Couzyn,Jeni (ed.). The Bloodaxe Book of Conternporary Jir~tnen Poets: Eleven B,-itish Write,-s. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe, 1985. Cunningham, Valentine. 'For Better orVerse?' The Ti111es Higher Education Suppletnent. 27 November 1998: 20-1. Ellmann, Mary.- 'The BellJar: An American Girlhood'. In Charles Newman (ed.), The Art of S}Ilvia Plath: A SytnpOsiuln. London: Faber and Faber, 1970: 221-6. 220
'Eroticism and Wit Restored in Ne"\v Edition of Sylvia Plath Diaries'. Independent on Sunday. 1 February 1998: 1 (author unnamed).
Faas, Ekbert. 'Chapters of a Shared Mythology: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes'. In Keith Sagar (ed.), TIzeAchietJelnent ofTed Hughes. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1983: 107-24. Gilbert, Sandra. 'InYeats' House: The Death and Resurrection of Sylvia Plath'. In Linda WWagner, Critical Essays on Sylvia Plath. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1984: 204-22.
Hall, Caroline King Barnard. Sylvia Plath, Revised. Ne\vYork:Twayne's United States Author Series (No. 702), 1998. Hardwick, Elizabeth. 'On Sylvia Plath'. In Paul Alexander fed.), Ariel Ascending. Ne\vYork: Harper & Ro\v, 1985: 100-15. Hargrove, Nancy D. The Journe}' TOlpard Ariel: Sylvia Plaths PoenlS of 1956-1959. Lund, S\veden: Lund University Press, 1994. Hayman, Ronald. The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath. NewYork: Birch Lane Press, 1991. Heaney, Seamus. 'The Indefatigable Hoof-taps: Sylvia Plath'. In Heaney, The Governtne11t oj-the TOngue. London: Faber, 1988: 148-70. Holbrook, David. Sylvia Plath: Poetry and Existence. London: AtWone Press, 1976. Hughes, Ted. 'The Art of Poetry LXXI'. (Drue Heinz, intervie"\ver.) The Paris Revieu). 134. Spring 1995: S5~94. Hughes, Ted. 'Introduction' (dated May 1978) to Sylvia Plath,Johnl1Y Pallic and the Bibleqf Drealns: Short Stories) Prose) And Diary Excerpts. Ne"\vYork: Harper & Row, 1977, 1979: 1~9. First US edition. Hughes, Ted. 'Publishing Sylvia Plath' (1971). In Ted Hughes, Winter Pollet'!: Occasional Prose (ed. William Scamnlell). London: Faber, 1994, 1995: 163~9. Hughes, Ted. 'Sylvia Plath and Her Journals' (1982). In ibid.: 177-90. Hughes, Ted. 'Sylvia Plath:The Evolution of"Sheep in Fog'" (1988). In ibid.: 191-211.
Kazin, Alfred. Bright Book qf Life: Atnerican .T. \lovelists and Storytellers fro 111 He11'zingu'a}' to ;L7Vlailer. Notre Dame: University of Notre Danle Press, 1971. Kendall, Tim. 'Sho\ving Off to an Audience of One'. Titnes Literary Supp/en-zent. 5 May 2000: 12. Kenner, Hugh. 'Sincerity Kills' (1979). In Harold Bloom (ed.), Sylvia Plath. Ne\vYork: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989: 67-78. Kirkham, Michael. 'Sylvia Plath' (first published in 1984). In Linda W Wagner (ed.), Sylvia Plath: The Critical Heritage. London and Ne"\v¥ork: Routledge, 1988: 276-91. Lerner, Laurence. 'New Novels'. First published in The Listener, 31 January 1963: 215. Reprinted in Linda WWagner (ed.), Sylvia Plath: The Critical Heritage. London and NewYork: Routledge, 1988: 53~4. 221
Lowell, Robert. 'Forevvord' to Ariel. In Sylvia Plath, Ariel. London: Faber and Faber, 1965: ix-xi. First English edition. Macpherson, Pat. Reflecting on The BeUJar. London: Routledge, 1991. Malcoltn,Janet. The Silent TMnnan: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. NevvYork: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994. First published in The NettJ Yorker. 23 & 30 August 1993: 94-159. Markey,Janice. AJourne}' into the Red Eye: The Poetry if Sylvia plath - A Critique. London: The Women's Press, 1993. Marsack, Robyn. Sylvia Plath. Buckingham: Open University Press, 1992. McClatchy, J. D. 'Short Circuits and Folding Mirrors' (1979). In Harold Bloom (ed.), Sylvia Plath. Ne\vYork: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989: 79-93. McCullough, Frances. 'Fore\vord to the Tvventy-Fifth Anniversary Edition'. In Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar. N evvYork: HarperCollins, 1971. T\venty-Fifth Anniversary hardcover edition published 1996: ix-xviii. Middlebrook, Diane Wood. Everytuans Library Pocket Poets: Sylvia Plath. N e\vYork: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998. Newtnan, Charles (ed.). The Art if Sylvia Plath. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1970. Oates,Joyce Carol. 'The Death Throes of Romanticism: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath'. In]oyce Carol Oates. Neul Heaven) Neu} Earth: The T/isionary Experience in Literature. London:Victor Gollancz, 1976: 111-40. Orr, Peter. Plath Reads Plath (intervie\v with Peter Orr). Cambridge: Credo Records, 1975. Recorded 30 October 1962. Transcription fronl recording: nune. Orr, Peter. The Poet Speaks. London: Routledge, 1966. Ostriker, Alicia. 'The Americanization of Sylvia'. In Linda WWagner (ed.), Critical Essays on Sylvia Plath. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1984: 97-109. Ostriker, Alicia Suskin. Stealing the Language: The E111ergence iff%tnetls Poetry in Anlerica. London: The Women's Press, 1986. Pearson, Allison. 'Trapped in Time: Sylvia Plath'. The Daily Telegraph (Arts & Books Section). 1 April 2000:A1-A2. Pereira, Malin Walther. 'Be(e)ing and "Truth": Tar Babys Signifying on Sylvia Plath's Bee Poems'. Twentieth Century Literature.Winter 1996.Volume 42, Number 4: 526-34. Perloff, Marjorie. 'Sylvia Plath's Collected POet11S' (1981). In Linda WWagner (ed.) , Sylvia Plath: The Critical Heritage. London and Ne\vYork: Routledge, 1988: 293-303. Perloff, Marjorie. 'The T\vo Ariels: The (Re)making of the Sylvia Plath Canon' . Alnericall Poetry Revielv 13. November-December 1984: 10-18. Reitnann, Aribert. Six Poents by Sylt1ia Plath for Soprano and Piano (musical score). NevvYork: Schott, 1987. 222
Rorem, Ned. Ariel: Five Poe111S oj Sylvia Plath,_for Soprano, Clarinet and Piano (musical score). Ne"\vYork: Boosey & Ha\vkes, 1974. Rose, Jacqueline. The Hauntitlg oj Sylvia Plath. London:Virago Press, 1991. Rose, Jacqueline. 'So Many Lives, So Little Time'. The Observer (Revie"\v Section). 2 April 2000: 11. Rosenthal, M. L. 'Sylvia Plath and Confessional Poetry' (1967). In Charles Ne"\vman (ed.), The Art of Sylvia Plath. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1970: 69-76. Rowley, Rosemarie. 'Electro-Convulsive Treatment in Sylvia Plath's Life and Work'. Thutnbscretv 10, Spring 1998: 87-99. Sambrook, Hana. York l\lotes: Sylvia Plath: Selected VVbrks. Harlow: Longman York Press, 1990. Sheldon, Michael. 'The "Demon" that Killed Sylvia' . The Daily Telegraph. 13 March 2000: 9. Shulamit, Ran. Afusico..fRan Shula1tlit (includes Apprehensions,jor voice, Clarinet and Piano). NewYork: CRI, 1991 (CD). Smith, Stan. Inviolable VOice: History and ntJentieth-Century Poetry. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1982. Steiner, George. 'Dying is an Art'. In Charles Newman (ed.), The Art of Sylvia Plath:A Syfrlpositun. London: Faber and Faber, 1970: 211-18. Steiner, Nancy Hunter. A Closer Look atAriel:A A1etnory o.f SylVia Plath. London: Faber, 1974. Stevenson, Anne. Bitter Fanle:A Life oj Sylvia Plath. London:Viking, 1989. Stevenson, Anne. 'Sylvia Plath's Word Games'. Poetry Revietv.Volume 86, No. 4,Winter 1996/7: 28-34. 'Under the Skin' (unsigned revie"\v). First published in the Ti,nes Literar}' Supple111ent. 25 January 1963: 53. Reprinted in Linda WWagner Ced.), Sylvia Plath: The Critical Heritage. London and NevvYork: Routledge, 1988: 52. Van Dyne, Susan R.' "More Terrible Than She Ever Was": The Manuscripts of Sylvia Plath's Bee Poems'. In Sylvia Plath, Stings. Original Drafts of the Poem in Facsimile. Reproduced from the Sylvia Plath Collection at Smith College. Easthampton: The PioneerValley Printing Company, 1982: 3-12. Van Dyne, Susan R. Revising L!fe: Sylvia Plath's Ariel Poel11S. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993. f0ices & Visions: Sylvia Plath. Ne"\v York: Mystic Fire Video, 1988. Wagner, Erica. Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Stor}Joj Birthday Letters. London: Faber and Faber, 2000. Wagner, Erica. 'At Last,Justice for Hughes'. The TitHes. 10 April 2000: 6-7. Wagner, Erica. 'Love That Passed All Understanding' . The Times. 18 March 2000: 21. Wagner, Linda W Ced.). Critical Essays 011 Sylvia Plath. Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1984. 223
Wagner, Linda ~ (ed.). Sylvia Plath: The Critical Heritage. London and Ne\v York: Routledge, 1988. Wagner-Martin, Linda ~ Sylvia Plath:A Biography. London: Cardinal, 1987.
Other Literary Works Cited Atwood, Margaret. The Edible TMJtnan (1969). London:Virago, 1980. Bronte, Charlotte. Villette (1853). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984, 1990. Byatt, A. S. Babel I1nver. London: Chatto & Windus, 1996. Byatt, A. S. Possession: A ROnlallCe. London: Chatto & Windus, 1990. Carson, Rachel L. The Sea Around Us. London: Staples Press, 1951. Carson, Rachel L. Silent Spring. London: Penguin, 1962. First appeared in The Netl/ Yorker, 16June 1962: 35-99; 23 June 1962: 31-89; 30 June 1962: 35-67. Carson, Rachel L. Under the Sea Wind: A Naturalist's Picture of Ocean Life. London: Staples Press, 1952. Dunn, Sara (ed.). Beneath the Wide vVide Heaven: Poetry of the EnvirOfltnent jrofn Antiquity to the Present. London:Virago, 1991. Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. The COfnplete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grin'un. Translated by Jack Zipes. London and Ne\vYork: Bantam Books, 1987, 1992. Hardy, Thomas. The Well-Beloved. London: Macmillan, 1975. Hughes, Ted. Birthday Letters. London: Faber, 1998 (published February 1998). Hughes,Ted. Cave Birds: A 1'1 Alchernical Cave Dral'na. Dra\vings by Leonard Baskin. Ne\vYork: The Viking Press, 1978. Hughes,Ted. CroLv. London: Faber, 1970, 1972. Faber Library edition (\vith seven additional poems), 1995. Hughes, Ted. 'Dylan Thomas' (1966). Excerpt reprinted in Ekbert Faas, Ted Hughes: The UnacconU110dated Universe. Santa Barbara: Black Sparro\v Press,
1980: 182-3. Hughes, Ted. EItnet. Photographs by Fay God\vin. London: Faber, 1994. (Many of the poems in Ebnet \vere first published as Renzains of Eltnet in 1979.) Hughes, Ted. 'The Environmental Revolution' (1970). In Ted Hughes, J17inter Pollen: Occasional Prose (ed.William Scammell). London: Faber, 1994: 128-35. 224
Hughes, Ted. Flolvers and Insects. Dra\vings by Leonard Baskin. London: Faber, 1986. Hughes, Ted. Gaudete.London: Faber, 1977. Hughes, Ted. The Iron J4"1J,nan. London: Faber, 1993. Hughes, Ted. A/leet ]\;fy Folks! London: Faber, 1961. Revised edition, 1987. Hughes, Ted. ]\;;[oortoUJ12. London: Faber, 1979. Hughes, Ted. NeLl} Selected Poelns 1957-1994. London: Faber, 1995. Hughes, Ted. 'The Offers'. The SU11day Tinles. 18 October 1998: Books Section,pp. 8-9. (First published in Houlls & J4l hispers; see Rare and Limited Editions, above.) Hughes, Ted. Three Books: RenlainsofEltnet (1979), Cave Birds (1978), River (1983). London: Faber, 1993. Hughes, Ted. l"llinter Pollen: Occasional Prose. Edited by William Scammell. London: Faber, 1995. Hughes, Ted. ffO.duJo. London: Faber, 1967. Hughes, Ted. J"Volfu1atching. London: Faber, 1989. James, Henry. The Alnerican (1877). Ne\vYork: Rinehart & Co., 1949, 1953. Joyce, James. Ul}'sses (1922). Harn~onds\vorth: Penguin, 1969. Lawrence, D. H. Selected PoelHs.Harmonds\vorth: Penguin, 1950. Sexton, Anne. The COlnplete Poelns. Boston: Houghton Miffiin Co., 1981. Woolf, Virginia. The Cotnplete Shorter Fiction ofVirginia 14loolf. Edited by Susan Dick. Ne\vYork: Harcourt Brace Co., 1989. Woolf, Virginia. Congenial Spirits: Selected Letters. Edited by Joanne Trautnlann Banks. London: Hogarth Press, 1989. Woolf, Virginia. l.l\tfrs Dallolvay (1925) ~ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. Woolf, Virginia. Orlando (1928). Oxford: Oxford University Press~ 1992. Woolf, Virginia. 'Professions for Women' (1931). In Michele Barrett (ed.), Virginia l/f'0o~r On f'Volnett and l'Vriting.London:Women's Press, 1979: 57-63. Woolf,Virginia. A Rool11qfOne's Otlln (1929)~ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. Woolf, Virginia. TO the Lighthouse (1927). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. Woolf,Virginia. The voyage Out(1915). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. Woolf, Virginia. The v~hves (1931). Oxford:.Oxford University Press, 1992. Woolf, Virginia. A lVriter's Diary. Edited by Leonard Woolf. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953.
Other Critical Works Cited Abel, Elizabeth. Vitgitlia fiYbolf and the Fictions of Psychoanalysis. London: University of Chicago Press, 1989. Ahtnad,Aijaz. 'The Politics of Literary Postcoloniality'. Race & Class.Vol. 36, No. 3,january-March 1995: 1-20. Anderson, Benedict. Itnagined C011ltnunities. London:Verso, 1991. Anderson, Nathalie. 'Ted Hughes and the Challenge of Gender'. In Keith Sagar (ed.), The Challenge oJTed Hughes. London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994:91-115. Artnitage, Sitnon. 'Between Consciousness and Cosmos' (revie\v of Neu) Selected Poetus). Tirnes Literary Suppletl1ent. 21 April 1995: 23. Bate, Jonathan. R011'zantic Ecology: l¥ords1vorth and the E11.virontnental TYaditio1Z. London: Routledge, 1991. Bentley, Paul. TIle Poetry oJTed Hughes: Language,. Illusion and Beyond. London: Addison Wesley Longman, 1998. Bhabha, Hotni K. 'Postcolonial Authority and Postmodern Guilt'. In Lavvrence Grossberg et al. (eds), Cultural Studies. Ne\vYork: Routledge, 1992: 56-68. Biehl, Janet. Rethinking Ecofen:zinist Politics. Boston: South End Press, 1991. Bishop, Nicholas. 'Neglected Auguries in "Recklings"'. In Keith Sagar (ed.), TIle Challenge oJTed Hughes. London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994: 11-39. Bishop, Nicholas. Re-tnaking Poetry: Ted Hughes and a Nell! Critical Psychology. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991. Braidotti, Rosi, et ale J1lbnlen,. the Environrnent and Sustainable Develop111ent: To1vards a Theoretical Synthesis. London and Ne\N Jersey: Zed Books, 1994. Brandes, Rand. 'Hughes, History and the World in Which We Live'. In Keith Sagar (ed.), The Challenge oJTed Hughes. London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994: 142-59. Brooks, Paul. The House oj Life: Rachel Carson at liUJrk) ltf!ith Selections Jron1 her v'Vritings Published and Unpublished. London: George Allen & Unvvin, 1972. Brown, Ron. Beekeeping:A Seasonal Guide. London: B. T. Batsford, 1985. Bull,John and Farrand, John, Jr. TheAudubon Society Field Guide to North Atnerican Birds. NewYork: Knopf, 1977, 1993. Byerly, Alison. 'The Uses of Landscape: The Picturesque Aesthetic and the National Park System'. In Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm (eds), The Ecocriticis111 Reader: Landnlarks in Literary Ecology. Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1996: 52-68. Cady, Michael, et ale (eds). The Conlplete Book oj British Birds. Basingstoke and Bedfordshire:The Automobile Association and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, 1992.
Carey, John. 'Fatal Attraction' (revievv of Birtl1da}! Letters). The Sunday Tittles (Books, Section 8). 25 January 1998: 1-2. Deitering, Cynthia. 'The Postnatural Novel: Toxic Consciousness in Fiction of the 1980s'. In Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm (eds), The Ecocriticisttt Reader: Landlnarks in Literary Ecolog}/. Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1996: 196-203. Eagleton, Terry. 'Capitalism, Modernism and Postmodernism' (first published in 1985). In David Lodge (ed.), l\tfodern Criticisfft and Theory:A Reader. London: Longman, 1988: 384-98.
Eagleton, Terry. The Rape of Clarissa: Writing, Sexualit}' and Class Struggle in Samuel Richardson. Oxford: Basil Black"\vell, 1982. Faas, Ekbert.'Ted Hughes and Crot-v' (1970 intervie\v with Ted Hughes). In Ekbert Faas, Ted Hughes: The Unaccornrnodated Universe. Santa Barbara: Black Sparro\v Press, 1980: 197-208. Faas, Ekbert. 'Ted Hughes and Gaudete' (1977 interview vvith Ted Hughes). In ibid.: 208-15. Faas, Ekbert. Ted Hughes: The LTnaccomtnodated Universe. SantaBarbara: Black Sparro"\v Press, 1980. Freud, Sigmund. 'The Infantile Genital Organization' (1923). In The Essentials of Ps}/cho-Analysis, ed.Anna Freud, trans. James Strachey. Harmonds"\vorth: Penguin, 1986: 390-4. Freud, Sigmund. 'The "Uncanny'" (1919). In The Penguitt Freud Library, vol. 14: 335-81. Friedan, Betty.. The Fetninine j\Jlystique. London: Penguin, 1963. Gifford, Terry. Green Voices. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995. Gifford, Terry and Roberts, Neil. Ted Hughes:A Critical Study. London: Faber and Faber, 1981. Glaister, Dan. 'The Rise and Rise ofTed Hughes, Deceased' .T11e Guardian. 12 January 1999: 3. Graham, Frank. Since Silent Spring. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1970. Heinzel, Hermann, et ale The Birds of Britain and Europe. London: Collins, 1972,1974. Hensher, Philip. 'Sollle Home Truths About Sylvia Plath' (revievv of Birthday Letters). Night & Da}/. 1 February 1998: 36. Hey, D. H. (ed., et at). Kingzett's Chemical Et1cyclopaedia:A Digest o.I Chernistry & Its Industrial Applications. London: Bailliere, Tindall and Cassell, 1966. Hirschberg, Stuart. Myth in the Poetry ofTed Hughes. Totowa: Barnes and Noble Books, 1981. Hobsbawm, E.J. Nations and Nationalism Since 1780: Prograntrne, Myth, Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1990. 227
Hynes, PatriciaH. The Recurring Silent Spring. NevvYork and Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1989. Jouve, Nicole Ward. VV11ite VVVtnan Speaks 'tvith Forked TOngue. London: Routledge, 1991. Klein, Melanie. 'A Study of Envy and Gratitude' (1956). In The Selected A/telanie Klein., ed. Juliet Mitchell. London: Penguin, 1986: 211-29. Kristeva,Julia. 'About Chinese Women' (1974). In The Kristeva Reader, ed. Toril.Moi. Oxford: Blackwell, 1986: 138-59. Kristeva, Julia. 'The Adolescent Novel' (1990). In Abjection, J\;Iela1JchoHa and Love: the l#rk ofJulia Kristeva, ed.John Fletcher and Andre\v Benjamin. London: Routledge, 1990. Kristeva,Julia. Desire in Language:A SetnioticApproach to Literature andArt. Oxford: Blackwell, 1980. Kristeva, Julia. Potvers ofHorror: An. Essay on Abjection (first published in 1980). Ne\vYork: Columbia University Press, 1982. Kristeva, Julia. Revolution i1i. Poetic Language (first published in 1974), trans. Margaret Waller. Nevv York: Columbia University Press, 1984. Legler, Gretchen T. 'Ecofeminist Literary Criticisnl'. In Karen J. Warren (ed.) , Ecqfetninisrn: vvvtnen, Culture, Nature. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997: 227-38. Longley, Edna. 'Obfuscating Myths' (revievv of Birthday Letters). Thtunbscretv 10, Spring 1998: 27-30. Maguire, Sarah. 'An Old Fresh Grief' (revievv of Birthday Letters).· The Guardian (Books). 22 January 1998: 11. Marco, Gino J. et ale (eds). Silent Spring Revisited. Based on a syn1.posium on the topics posed in Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, held in Philadelphia, 1984. Washington DC: American Chemical Society, 1987. Merchant, Carolyn. The Death of Nature. San Francisco: Harper & Rov\T, 1989. Miller, Karl. 'Et in America Ego' (review of Birthday Letters). Tin'lesLiterary Suppletnent. 6 February 1998: 3-4. Neill, Heather. 'The Fire That Still Burns After Sylvia' (revie\v of Birthday Letters). Titl1es Educational Suppletnetzt. 30 January 1998: 12. Pero, Thomas. 'Poet, Pike and a Pitiful Grouse' (intervie\v\vithTed Hughes). TI-w Guardian. 9 January 1999: (Saturday RevieuJ SectionJl-2. Plumwood,Val. Fetninisrn and the l\11aster)' of Nature. London: Routledge, 1993. Robinson, Craig. Ted Hughes as Shepherd of Being. London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989. Roe, Sue. Ttllriting a1'1d Gender: Virginia vvvolf's Writing Practice. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990.
BI BLIOG RAP HY
Sagar, Keith (ed.). The Achieve1nentofTed Hughes. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1983. Sagar, Keith. The Art ofTed Hughes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975. Sagar, Keith (ed.). The Challenge ofTed Hughes. London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994. Sagar, Keith. Ted Hughes. Harlovv:Longman, 1972. Schlesinger, Philip. 'Europeanness: A Ne\vCultural Battlefield?' (first published 1992). In John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith (eds),
Nationalistll. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994: 316-25.
Schmitt, Peter J. Back to Nature: The Arcadian.!vI}'th in Urban Atnerica. Baltimore and London:John Hopkins University Press, 1969, 1990. Scigaj, Leonard M.'Ted Hughes and Ecology: A BiocentricVision'. In Keith Sagar (ed.), The Challenge ojTed Hughes. London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994: 160-81. Scigaj, Leonard M. Ted Hughes: Forrn and Itnagination. Io\va City: University of lOvva Press, 1986. Slicer, Deborah.'Tovvard an Ecofeminist Standpoint Theory: Bodies as Grounds'. In Greta Gaard and Patrick D. Murphy (eds) , Ecoferninist Literary Criticis111:Theor}~ Interpretation) Pedagogy. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998: 49-73. Slovic, Scott. 'Nature Writing and Environmental Psychology'. In Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm (eds), The Ecocriticisnl Reader: Land111arks in Literary Ecology. Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1996: 351-70. Smith, Anthony D. National Identity. London: Penguin, 1991.
Walder, Dennis. Ted Hughes. Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1987. Warren, Karen J. 'Taking Empirical Data Seriously: An Ecofeminist Philosophical Perspective'. In Karen J. Warren (ed.), Ecoje1ninisnz-: Jififnnen) Culture) Nature. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997: 3-20. Warwick, Ronald. 'A Common Wealth'. The Tirnes Higher Education Supplernent.5 May 1995: 27. West, Thomas. Ted Hughes. London: Methuen, 1985. Woods, Richard. 'Hughes Sa\v Ghost of Plath on the Tube'. The Sunday Tilnes. 18 October 1998: 6.
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Abel, Elizabeth l/'irginia JiVoolf and the Fictions qf Psychoanalysis, 149, 150 Ahmad, Aijaz 'The Politics of Literary Postcoloniality', 60 Alexander, Paul Rough lHagic, 13, 40n, 97-8 Ahlarez, A., 3,4,5, 39n, 119 'Sylvia Plath', 118 Ames, Lois 'Sylvia Plath: A Biographical Note', 9 Amis, Martin, 15, 40n Anderson, Benedict Imagined C011ununities, 53 Anderson, Nathalie 'Ted Hughes and the Challenge of Gender', 194, 198, 215n Anderson, Steven W. (ed.) TIle Great American Bathroom Book, 19-20 Armitage, Simon 'BenveenConsciousness and Cosmos', 197 At\vood, Margaret The Edible lHJman, 146 Axelrod, Steven Gould Sylvia Plath: The l~ound and the Cure qfH'ords, 18, 142, 147,168n,168~9n, 171n Bacon, Francis, 126 Baltzell,]ane, 51-2 Bassnett, Susan Sylvia Plath, 41 n, 93, 168n Bate,]onathan Romantic Ecology, 111 Beuscher, Ruth, 186 Bhabha, Homi, 60 'Postcolonial Authority and Postmodern Guilt',47 Bishop, Nicholas 'Neglected Auguries in "Reckling'", 199, 215n Re-making Poetry, 177, 212n Blake,Willianl, 56 Bloom, Harold Sytuia Plath, 18
Bone,]ames 'Hughes Papers Reveal Devotion to Plath', 217n Braidotti, Rosi, et al. H/~:mlenJ the EntJlrOn111ent and Sustainable DetJelopment, 85 Brand, Rand 'Hughes, History and the World in Which We Live', 215 Bronfen, Elisabeth Sylvia Plath, 115,156 Bronte, Charlotte influence upon Sylvia Plath, 141,155-68 influence upon Virginia WooH~ 144 Villette (as template for The BeUJar), 141 Brooks, Paul The House qfLife, 86 Browning, Robert, 124 Butscher, Ed\vard Sylt'ia Plath: AJethod and Aladness, 168n Byatt,A.S. Babel1Ou/er, 87 Possession: A Rornance, 14 'Sylvia Plath: Letters Home', 14, 155 Byerly, Alison 'The Uses of Landscape', 99~100 Carey,]ohn 'Fatal Attraction', 213n Carson, Rachel The Sea Around Us, 85 Silent Spring, 85-8, 105, 106, 109, 110, 111-13,114-17,119-20,131, 132~3n, 135n, 137n Under the Sea J¥ind, 85 de Chirico, Giorgio, 192 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor 'This Lime-Tree Bo\ver My Prison', 133n 'The Rinle of the Ancient l\tlariner', 116 Couzyn,]eni The Bloodaxe BookqfCotltemporar}' llhmen Poets, 50,59 Crosbie-Hill,]anet, 215-16n Cunningham,Valentine 'For Better orVerse?', 191
INDEX Curie, Marie, 107 Dante Alighieri, 115 Davison, Peter, 40n, 52 Deitering, Cynthia 'The Postnatural Novel', 90-1 Dobson, Rosenlary 'Dry River', 87 Duncan, Isadora, 28, 115, 116 Dunn, Sara Beneath the J~)"ide T4i'ide Heaven, 133n Duras, Marguerite, 118 Eagleton, Terry 'Capitalism, Modernisnl and Postnlodernisnl' , 129 The Rape of Clarissa, 34-35, 181, 185 Eisenhavv'er, Dyvight D., 157 Eliot,T.S., 51,59,60,115, 137n Ellman, Mary ,The BellJar: An Anlerican Girlhood', 63 Euripides The Bacchae, 178 Evans, Matthevv, 191 Faas, Ekbert 'Chapters in a Shared Mythology', 177-8 'Ted Hughes and Crow', 212n 'Ted Hughes and Gaudete', 176,195-6 lid Hughes: The Unacco 11'11110 dated LTniverse, 177 Friedan, Betty The Feminine Afystique, 101 Freud, Signlund 'The "Uncanny"', 65-6 Fuseli, Henry (The l\Jightmare), 18 Gifford, Terry Green T/oices, 128 lid Hughes: A Critical Study, 192 Gilbert, Sandra 'InYeats' House', 142, 168n Glaister, Dan 'The Rise and Rise ofTed Hughes, Deceased', 176,184,191 Grahanl, Frank
Since Silent Spring, 85,86 Greer, Germaine, 15, 40n Grinun,Jacob and Wilhelm 'Cinderella', 164-6 'Sno\vWhite', 164-5 Hardy, Thonlas The Jf;ell-BelotJed, 107 Hardwick, Elizabeth 'On Sylvia Plath', 78n, 142 Hargrove, Nancy D. The}ourney TbuJard Ariel, SOn
Heaney, Seamus 'The Indefatigable Hoof-taps', 60,8in, 139n Hensher, Philip 'SOllIe Hotne Truths About Sylvi.a Plath', lS3,190,213n Hiroshima ltIon Amour, 118, 138n Hobsba\vtn, E.J. blations and Nationalis11'1 Since 1780, 50 Holbrook, David Sylttia Plath: Poetry and Existence, 105 Hohnes, Sherlock, 111,112 Hughes, Frieda, 12, 13 Hughes, Ohvyn, 36, 52,210, 212'-13n, 215-16n Hughes, Ted, 3, 12, 15, 16,22,47-8,57,60, 68-9,72,86,106,113,115, 133n, 145, 168, 195-6,207,212-13n, 215n 'The Angel', 212n 'The Art of Poetry LXXI', 28, 53 'Ballad frotn a FairyTale~, 212n 'Bavldry Etnbraced', 199, 215n 'Being Christlike', 215n 'Big Poppy', 197 Birthday Letters, 99, 127, 176, 177, 178, 180,-4,189-91,196, 197-8, 199, 212n, 213-14n 'Black Coat', 215n 'The Black Rhino', 198-9 'Bo\vled Over', 176, 212n 'Bride and groanl lie hidden for three days', 200-2 'Caryatids (I)', 182 'The Cast', 213n Calle Birds, 199, 200 'Chaucer', 215n 'Child's Park', 182 'The City', 187 'Cradle Piece', 204 Crossing the f4'tlter (BBC Radio Script), 68 Crow, 55 'Cro\v's Song About England', 192'-4 'Dark Wotnen' ('The Green Wolf') , 214n 'The Dogs Are EatingYour Mother', 215n 'Dreatners', 213n 'Dylan Thomas', 196 'The Earthenvv"are Head', 197, 215n '18 Rugby Street', 182 'The Environnlental Revolution', 86 'A Fable', 204 'Fallgrief's Girl-friends', 192, 214n 'Fidelity', 182, 213n 'The 59th Bear', 99 'Fire Eater', 177 Flowers and Insects, 215n 'Flounders', 182 'Fore\vord' to The Journals